Christmas is a magical time for most around the world – whether it's sitting by the fireplace with the family, hanging up the stockings, or placing presents under the tree and waiting (impatiently) to open them. But there are certain traditions that don't quite fit into the stereotypes we have of good, clean fun. Take a look at our selection of the three strangest customs around Christmas time:
Can be found in: Austria, Germany, Northern Italy, among other places.
Krampus isn’t so much something you do as it is something you are slightly terrified of as a child. In many countries with a strong Catholic background, Saint Nicholas is celebrated as being the traditional gift bringer, who travels around checking his book of naughty and nice names and handing out presents. Of course, the presents are only for the good children; the naughty children have to deal with Krampus, Saint Nicholas’s helper. This creature is usually depicted as a devil, with black hair and a long tongue, that carries rusty chains and switches to beat naughty children with!
Krampusnacht happens on the Eve of Saint Nicholas’s Day (usually the 4th of December) and is a drunken festival of frights. Men and women alike dress up as devils, beasts, and witches. They carry torches and parade through the city and joyfully harass and scare children and adults all over town.
Think you have enough German to ward off the dastardly Krampus? Take our German level test to see!
Can be found in: Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Southern France.
The Caganer comes from the traditional Catholic Nativity scene, which centres around the birth of Jesus and contains some obligatory figurines, like the Wise Men, Mary, Joseph, and the animals in the stable. The Caganer is an additional figure, usually hidden amongst all the other figurines representing those present during the birth of Jesus. How can you tell who the Caganer is? He’s the one with his pants down, defecating. Yep. He’s taking a poop during the Nativity.
The tradition these days is for children to find the pooping figure in the Nativity scene, and if they do they win a small gift or prize. It’s a bit strange but they’ve become so common and so popular that you can find celebrity adaptations available in shops to buy around Christmas time. They’ve even made one of Barack Obama!
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Caga Tiã/ Caga Tió
Can be found in: Spain
Alright. we know you might be thinking that Spain has an issue with poop, and after this Christmas tradition, I think you might be right.
The Caga Tió appears around the 8th of December – it’s a log, with a jovial face painted on it. Usually it wears a red hat and has legs also made from wood to prop it upright. The hat is called a Barretina, which is a traditional Catalan hat, where the tradition of Caga Tió originally hails from. Caga Tió means ‘poop log’ and that’s exactly what children want this log to do for them – poop. Up until Christmas Eve, the children of the house cover the log with a blanket and feed it every evening. They want their log to be very full, so it will poop out as much as possible on Christmas Eve. After dinner on Christmas Eve the children of the house gather around the Caga Tió with a stick, and sing this song:
“Caga Tió avellanes I torró
Si no vols cagar
Et donanem un cop de pal.”
Which roughly translates to:
"Caga Tió hazelnuts and turron
If you don't want to poop
We will hit you with a stick"
After this sing this, and indeed while they sing this, the beat the log with a stick. After the song is complete, they lift up the blanket, and underneath they find the ‘pooped’ presents of nuts, candy, and small gifts.
Confused by this strange Spanish tradition? Test your knowledge of the language to get started on finding out more about the culture!
What about you? Any crazy Christmas customs from your neck of the woods? Send us your traditions in the comments section below!