Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Crazy Traditions Done At Christmas

Christmas has many beautiful and classical traditions. Like decorating the tree or singing Christmas carols, exchanging gifts. But did you know that there are peculiar and wacky ones, too?

A unique tradition takes place in Caracas, Venezuela from December 16th to December 24th. The busy city streets of Caracas close off before 8 AM to any motor traffic and allow traffic on 4-wheelers to use them. It is customary in Venezuela to attend Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass) and by closing traffic off to bulky cars and buses, everyone can skate to mass on time.

Another interesting tradition one would never think of having in a million years concerns the Christmas pickle. That’s right! The Christmas pickle! A tradition that has been around for years, a pickle ornament is hidden on the Christmas tree. The first person to find the pickle among all the other ornament receives an extra present on Christmas. The tradition has stories originating from the Spain to Germany.

Pickles are not the only food products for a tradition; there is one that has radish carving. Nativity scenes, conquistadors, dancers, historical and mythological events are sculpted from radishes by Mexican artisans and are then lined the central plaza of Oaxaca on December 23rd and 24th for El Festival de los Rabanos (The Festival of Radishes). It is a one-of-a-kind festival featuring dance, food, and these carved radishes (I wonder if the radishes end up eaten at the end of the festival?).

A spider or web is not unusual on a Ukrainian Christmas tree. There is a folk tale that goes with the tradition.  A poor family woke up on Christmas morning and found their undecorated tree covered in spider webs that shined silver and gold in the morning sun.

Not just New Year’s, but also on Christmas, crackers or bon-bons are  used to celebrate in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries. No, I am not talking about the cracker you put in your soup.  The cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in holiday wrapping twisted at the ends. The person then takes one side of the twisted end, while another holds the other and they pull. With a BANG, the cracker splits and the luckier individual holding the longer end of the cracker, finds a special prize at that end.

In Italy, children go to bed waiting for a magical being to bring presents. In Italian folklore, an old witch delivers gifts and candy to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). La Befana is portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick, usually covered in soot as she enters homes through chimneys. Not unlike the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children leave out wine and food for the Befana.

Those residing in Japan have already begun the process of pre-ordering their fried chicken for Christmas. That is right—fried chicken. Unlike the traditional ham or turkey Americans eat during the holidays, those in Japan celebrate by eating fried chicken. The meal ends with a delicious Christmas cake for dessert.

There’s a superstition in Norway that advises households to hide their brooms on Christmas Eve. It is believed that witches and evil spirits will rise from the graves and use the brooms to fly through the sky and create chaos until dawn.  

Now this is an especially bizarre tradition. In the principality of Catalonia, it has become customary to decorate the traditional nativity scene with an extra something, or rather someone. This extra character is known as El Caganer, also known as “the pooper.” The ceramic figure has been that of a shepherd in times past, but today the figure can be whatever personality.

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