We’ve always been fascinated by Christmas here at TWC and got really into the idea of comparing different traditions around the world. At first, we didn’t think Christmas could have much of a different process. Sure, we thought maybe there would be slight cultural differences (with countries that celebrate it, that is) but we could hardly believe all the strange yet cool information we came across, once we started looking into it.
Starting with a favorite – the Gävle goat tradition in Sweden. Have you got any Swedish friends that have already told you about it? If not, here’s the story. As we all know, Santa is nothing but a commercial creation by Coca-Cola and cartoonist Thomas Nast. Although he was indeed a creation in the late 1920s, the idea of a man delivering presents to good children is based on English folkloric traditions of Father Christmas. So as you can imagine, countries worldwide have always had their own traditions, way before Santa came around, in his red pants and long white beard.
This, therefore, brings us back to the Swedish tradition of the goat (getting back on track, I assure you). For hundreds of years, western countries have celebrated the festivity of Yule, and some of these traditions became a popular one during Christmas time in Sweden. The Yule Goat was supposed to help deliver presents to the children, and in later times Santa would even ride a goat to deliver the presents. This all surely doesn’t sound too strange yet does it? Well, the fact is the goats are usually made out of straw, which makes them highly flammable… Do you see what we’re getting at? So in the town of Gävle, not only is a huge straw goat raised in the middle of the town for Christmas, but bets also open to see how long the goat will last before getting burned down. Why is the town so eager to build a huge goat if it always ends up getting burned down? My guess is it’s part of the tradition!
As we mentioned above, some countries have celebrated Christmas for centuries and have incorporated the more modern idea of Santa into their old traditions. But who knew a country would include a terrifying character into their Christmas festivities? Let me introduce you to Krampus, who is Father Christmas’ companion that beats naughty children. Similarly but not yet as terrifying, the French have Pére Fouettard, whose known to hang around with St. Nicholas to beat naughty children too.
He’s half goat/half demon (speaking of goats), but originally had nothing to do with Christmas at all. The name derives from the German word Krampen meaning claw, and many have written about the old and mythological idea of Krampus long before we could remember. According to the tales, he comes to children’s houses the night before December 6th on Krampusnacht (which is also St. Nicholas night). Children would either get a present in their boot by St. Nicholas, or a beating by Krampus. Which one do you think you deserve this year?
Whilst this is all very interesting, we’re curious to find out what our friends in Japan are up to this time of the year, and you’ll never guess their Christmas dinner tradition! Their traditional Christmas meal is all about the Kentucky Fried Chicken, yes, the American fast food chain. BBC claims that 3.6 million Japanese families treat themselves to KFC on Christmas day, but where does this tradition come from? According to the same article, it all started in 1970 when the first restaurant opened in Japan. Takeshi Okawara, the manager of that restaurant, dreamed of a KFC Christmas, which soon became a huge tradition.
“There was no tradition of Christmas in Japan, and so KFC came in and said, this is what you should do on Christmas,” said KFC shop owner.
Finally, we thought we’d discuss the funny yet strange Catalonian Christmas logs. I for one, lived in Barcelona for a few years and couldn’t miss all those strange looking logs adorned with happy faces and Christmas hats, but couldn’t exactly understand why they were so popular. Its real name is caga tio which translates to the pooping tree trunk in English. The log is usually purchased on the weekend of the 8th of December – the weekend of the immaculate conception. Children keep the logs as pets around the house and believe they keep it warm and fed until Christmas. To make the children believe that the log is growing, parents have to keep replacing them with bigger logs, until it reaches its adult size on Christmas day. Then, the log is placed in the middle of the living room, covered with a sheet, and children hit it with sticks until it “poops” the presents. The things we do for our children!
We’d love to know what Christmas traditions you have in your country, so don’t hesitate to comment below!