Friday, November 30, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #53: Weird Christmas Traditions

A Mother Life

It’s that time of year again – time to put on weight, spend money you don’t have, hang around with people you can’t stand, wear ugly sweaters, drink egg-based cocktails, and argue about religion. That’s right! It’s Christmas!

Yay! ~ Yumi Ang

1) Every year at Christmas time, in the Swedish city of Gävle, the residents erect a goat. The goat is 43 feet (13 meters) tall, 23 feet (7 meters) long, and weighs three tons.

It's a damn bit goat. ~ Tony Nordin

The Gävle goat is a local version of the traditional Yule Goat, a custom which harkens back to the yearly slaughtering of a goat at Yuletide, in honor of the Norse gods. The custom of building a gigantic straw goat goes back to 1966. That first goat was erected on the first of December. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, someone burned it down.

Despite the fact that burning the goat is a crime punishable by imprisonment, it has been burned down roughly every other year since then. Fireproof construction materials and even armed guards have been implemented, to no avail. It’s gotten to the point where the Goat Committee makes provisions for a backup goat, so they can replace it if it gets burned down early in the season, as did the 2011 goat, which lasted only six days.

Goats that have not been burned have been hit by cars, sabotaged and made to collapse, and kicked to pieces. In 1968, a couple allegedly made love inside the goat. To date, the goats have a survival rate of about 45%.

2) Krampus is a Christmas demon who, in Austria and other Alpine regions, accompanies Santa on Christmas Eve.

He's the naughty elf. ~ Anita Martinz

Legend has it that Krampus stuffs naughty children into his sack, carries them away, and EATS THEM FOR CHRISTMAS DINNER.

Austrians: THEY DO NOT FUCK AROUND. ~ Mathias Kabel

It is customary to offer Krampus alcohol. No word on whether that keeps him from eating you.

3) In Catalonia, southern France, Andorra, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and some parts of Italy and Portugal, nativity scenes contain a figurine known as the caganer. It’s generally placed in a discreet corner of the manger, because it’s a little statue of a man taking a shit.

We needed that after the other thing. ~ Steve Cobell

No one knows where the tradition comes from, but you can buy one that looks like Dora the Explorer. Your kids will love it.

4) Berrien Springs, Michigan, is the Christmas pickle capital of the world. A Christmas pickle is a Christmas tree ornament made of glass. On Christmas morning, the children of the family try to spot it amongst the greenness, and the winner gets a prize. Legend has is that the tradition comes from Germany, where “legend” means “marketing gimmick.” Another story goes that German-born Civil War soldier John Lower was imprisoned in the infamous Andersonville POW camp by the Confederates in 1864. On Christmas Eve of that year, the starving soldier begged his guard for a pickle, which the guard provided, and which, the story goes, saved the man’s life.

It was a Christmas miracle.

5) In Wales, around Christmas and New Year’s, wassailing merrymakers go from door to door, singing happily, in the company of a person dressed as a horse.


The horse is known as the Mari Lwyd, which I have no idea how to pronounce, and is most often found in southern and south-eastern parts of the country. The tradition probably goes back to ancient celebrations of the goddess Rhiannon. The Mari party sing traditional songs and Christmas carols, or may engage in lengthy rhyming contests with the inhabitants of the houses they visit. The Mari party always hopes to gain entrance to the house, where they will be plied with food and drink. Entrance is usually granted, since the Mari Lwyn is believed to bring luck to the household.

Merry Christmas. ~ Jan Mehlich