Festivus, Krampus and other odd holiday traditions

Monday, December 23, 2019

If you’re of a certain age and have a slightly-askew sense of humor, you’ve probably heard of Festivus.

Originating with one Seinfeld writer in the 1990s, the anti-Christmas includes the display of a plain aluminum pole, a clock in a bag nailed to the wall. (To the question “What’s in the bag?” the prescribed response: “That’s none of your concern.”). A traditional meal should be meatloaf, followed by the airing of grievances and feats of strength, ideally resulting in the head of the household being pinned in a wrestling match.

Throw in questionable “Festivus Miracles” such as carrying in all the groceries without tripping, and you’ve got a complete anti-holiday, observed today, Dec. 23.

While Festivus is a mostly contrived event, here are some actual observances from around the world:

-- Krampus, St. Nicholas’ evil twin, roams the streets of Austria, frightening naughty boys and girls into being nice.

-- Worshippers roller-skate to Christmas mass in Caracas, Venezuela, where the streets are closed to traffic for safety. Children sleep with a skate hanging out of a window, a shoestring tied to their toe, so their friends can wake them with a gentle tug should they oversleep.

-- A giant cat roams Iceland, rewarding good employees with new clothes and devouring slackers.

-- When they aren’t investigating Bidens, Ukrainians are decorating their trees with spider webs.

-- A successful 1974 marketing campaign lives on today in Japan, where “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” has everyone eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.

-- You’ve probably heard of Germans hiding a pickle in their Christmas tree, but did you know Fins enjoy a long, respectful, naked stint in the sauna, with their long-dead ancestors, before heading out to evening celebrations?

-- Dutch children place their shoes near the fire in hopes Sinterklaas, with his white horse Amerigo, will fill them with gifts, and not a potato reserved for naughty kids.

-- An old woman named Belfana brings candy and gifts to Italian children, but she doesn’t come down the chimney until Jan. 5.

-- South Africans enjoy fried caterpillars, and Norwegian children watch out for mischievous witches on Christmas eve.

-- Swedish families gather around the television at precisely 3 p.m. on Christmas to watch a Donald Duck special, first aired in 1958. Their celebrations, instead of a man in a sleigh, also include a Yule Goat, who delivers the treats.

-- New Zealnders decorate a pohutukawa tree at Christmas, and in Spain, children beat a candy-filled hollow log with stick legs, a smile and red hat, singing “Poop log, Poop nougats, hazelnuts and   cheese. If you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick. Poop log!”

You probably have family traditions as well, but whatever they are, we hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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