To some, the beloved Holiday tradition of taking time each day to open one window on a shoddily crafted cardboard house, only to be rewarded with a paltry subpar piece of waxy chocolate that would enrage even the most lax Willy Wonka quality control Oompa foreman could seem a tad odd.
Advent Calendars may seem totally vanilla to us, but to other cultures it would induce plenty of head scratching. Why do Catholics commend property damage, breaking & entering and grand theft candy leading up until Christmas? That being said, we could easily shoulder shrug on why certain seasonal celebratory practices are performed around this great globe of ours.
Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride has taught me that we should embrace our differences, open our minds to new cultural experiences and always remember that the Machines could rise up against us at any moment in the form or creepy, warbling, ethnically garbed robots.
I’ve collected just a few of these very unique celebrations around the world, both past and present. So now you can come off as a well spoken individual with many intriguing facts while trying to impress your significant others co-workers at his/her Holiday staff party.
Well, as best you can if it’s an open bar.
Japan Celebrates Christmas with the Colonel!
Fact: The Japanese like to get down with the Dirty Bird on the day of Baby Jesus’ birth.
It’s now become almost customary to grab a bucket from a local KFC in Japan on Christmas Day. In fact the demand on this one day is so astronomically high, many of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants take advance reservations.
If Ralphie’s parents in “A Christmas Story” could enjoy some freshly de-necked duck on the 25th at their local Chinese Restaurant, then why shouldn’t our Japanese friends gleefully devour Sadness Bowls after Santa swings past the East?
Heck, I’ve been celebrating Easter at Arby’s for years.
Flaming Raisins & Third Degree Burns
Extremely popular from the 16th to the 19th centuries, when no one had access to iPhones, WOW or online Porn, Snapdragons (or Flap dragons) is a long forgotten game I know Joe Rogan would eagerly add to the Fear Factor roster.
Hey Moms, Hey Dads! Grab the family and gather around the dining room table. Find a large wide shallow bowl and place it in the middle of said table. Take a large amount of raisins and scatter them into the bowl. Pour cognac or brandy onto the plate so that is covers the dried fruit. You see, up until now and if you enjoy raisins, this might seem like the beginning of a really kick-ass Holiday dessert.
Then it goes all Criss Angel.
So go right ahead and set fire to the pool of alcohol and dim those lights. Players then take turns attempting to pluck scalding raisins out of a burning liquid Hell and eating them as quickly as possible.
With their bare hands.
Snapdragon was played in England, Canada, and the United States and the blue flame dancing in the darkened room was said to be akin to a dragon’s blazing breath of fire. Others note that the pure enjoyment of the game was to watch the other participant’s contorted faces, which resembled demons as their turn came up and quickly scooped up the plump scalding fruit and extinguished it by closing their mouth.
Not surprisingly, when the novelty of seeing children being scorched via flaming fruit wore off, this game lost its flavor and quickly disappeared heading into the 20thcentury.
Both Food & Lionel Richie Like it on the Ceiling
A very messy tradition, food tossing in the Ukraine and Slovakia is observed at the beginning of Christmas Eve dinner. The patriarch of the family will start tossing “Loksa”, a traditional dish made of bread, water and poppy seed filling, towards the ceiling. The more Loksa that sticks on the ceiling would be seen as an increase in more plentiful, bountiful crops when the next harvest season came around.
I wonder if this is where stucco originates from.
The Pickle Ornament Conspiracy
History or an unverified Wikipedia chain tells us that the beloved pickle ornament was the last thing to be hung in the Christmas tree by German families, and was passed on through generations. It was to be hidden deep within the branches when hung, and the first lucky kid that could Where’s Waldo it, will receive a special gift in the morning of Christmas Day.
To this day you will be hard pressed to find someone of German descent who has heard of this historical tidbit, or the long honored tradition it revels in. In fact most Germans treat this as an Urban Legend or Myth.
The quaint story does however move plenty of glass pickle ornaments in the United States.
Caga Tio: Poop Log for Kids!
Back before you could run down to the local Wal-mart in Spain and purchase your very own prefab Caga Tio (Cacka-tee-oh), you would happily cut down a tree, gut it and craft a beautiful poop log for the entire family to enjoy.
Starting on the 8th of December, you begin to feed your Caga Tio. You also cover his rear end with a blanket to keep him warm and feed him delicious Turron and Orange peel. Apparently the more you feed him, the more Christmas presents he would defecate.
Yes, you read that correctly.
On Christmas Eve families excitedly place him near their fireplace and proceed to beat the poor soul repeatedly with a stick (Wood on Wood violence is wrong people) until he craps out nuts, candies and fruits. To make this ordeal even more humiliating for the pet log, the entire family would sit before the Caga Tio and sing a song that encouraged it to give up the goods, while the brutal assault ensued.
Once voided, the Children would look under the blanket once used to comfort and warm Caga Tio to discover and claim their Christmas gifts.
It’s as if someone commissioned David Lynch to come up with a Holiday tradition.
So the next time you gripe about having to spend the Holidays with your in-laws, think of Caga Tios plight. It could be plenty worse my friends.