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Christmas and New Years Eve Traditions from Around the World

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1. Scaring children into good behavior.

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Over in Germany it’s the use of Krampus: a half-goat beast who will take naughty children to the depths of hell to be tortured by birch branches.krampus

Here in the US, we use Elf on the Shelf. He’s a tiny-sized stuffed elf, who sits on childrens’ shelves and flies to the North Pole to report naught or nice details to Santa Clause. We’ve also got the Grinch created by Dr. Seuss in 1957. This goblin-like green dude simply steals everything Christmas.

In the Netherlands Black Peter was created in the mid 1850s. This guy comes to naughty children and does the following: Slugs ’em with an uppercut, gives a couple swift kicks to the backside, stuffs the children in a rucksack, and dumps them off in Spain.

Jolakotturinn, is a demonized cat from Iceland. This kitty teaches kids hard work: brings new clothes and prevents children from being being cat food.

Mari Lwyd, from Wales, is a horse-like creature with a horse’s skull. It sits atop a pole carried by a person under a white veil. When this guy comes knocking on your door, you’re supposed to entertain him or her with drinks and merriment. But only if they sing first.mari lwyd

Last but not least, over in Greece, Kallikantzaroi are Grinch-like characters with goblin faces who come from the bowels of hell. They arrive during the final 12 days of Christmas and tear up peoples’ homes.

2. Burning, smashing, eating and dropping things.

Sweden celebrates its yuletide festivities by hoisting up a 43-foot tall goat (Gavle the goat). On midnight of New Years Eve this thing is lit on fire. Popular theories suggest this statue may have something to do with the Norse god Thor. Others suggest it represents an invisible spirit insuring Yule preparations are done right.SONY DSC

In Spain, people will eat the twelve grapes of luck. Members gather on New Years Eve with bowls filled with grapes; they stuff as many as possible in their mouths with each ring of the bell tolling the new year. If this is something you’re going to be doing, do it with others, with at least one person present who know the Heimlich.

All across the US people are obsessed with dropping things at the stroke of New Years Eve midnight. Pumpkins are getting thrown from catapults, glass balls drop, cars are dropped from great heights, and 85 lbs fiberglass resin Peeps are lowered, acorns on massive scale are lowered, synthetic fruits of all kinds are used (peaches, watermelons), guitars… the list continues on this website. My personal favorite: the lowering of the “drag queen named sushi from a giant ruby red slipped” in Key West, Florida.

3. It doesn’t matter how you get there, just show up to Christmas.

In Caracas, Venezuela people are encouraged to roller skate to Christmas morning mass.

4. The Food!

Caga Tio (translated poop uncle/guy) works as a toy/pet and a Christmas edible treat. After treating it kindly throughout the season of advent – covering it with blankies when it’s cold, pretending to feed it – children bash its face in and eat the goodies that spill out on Christmas eve.

Japanese traditionally buy everything KFC for Christmas dinner, which includes champagne and cake. In Portugal people lay out food for the dead. Russia and Poland celebrate a period of fasting on Christmas Eve. People break fast when the first star appears in the night sky. A traditional Polish sweet is the Chrusciki, a powdery pasty made with whiskey. Russians will often partake in this evening meal by eating from a “common bowl” symbolizing they unity they share.

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