By Haddon Libby
Football, food, friends and loved ones. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, Christmas represents a time when we can set-aside our daily lives to appreciate and remember those who are most important to us. People around the world use December 25th as a day to celebrate although those celebrations can look very different than what we know.
For example, people in the northeastern province of Spain called Catalonia have two of the odder Christmas traditions. The first is Tio de Nadal or the Pooping Log. The log is decorated with a happy face where it (how do you tell the sex of a log?) sits on a blanket (maybe you can tell their sex by the length of the splinter lashes) and is beaten with sticks by children until the log shits out candy and nuts. If the kids beat the log too much, something smelly like an onion or fish comes out. Another tradition in this fecally-fixated region is to adorn your home with caganars or figurines. What makes these figurines different is that each one shows someone dropping their pants to poop out a little brown emojis sans the face. Catalonians like to hide caganars near nativity scenes. Why? No one knows. This year Donald Trump is a favorite caganar.
While no one is certain of the origins of the Christmas pickle, most historians feel certain that it did not originate in Germany. Many believe that the Christmas pickle was the creation of an enterprising salesman at Woolsworth in the late 1800s. As Woolworth’s had begun importing glass fruits and vegetables from Germany for decorating Christmas trees, the pickle ornaments were slow movers. As such, a story was invented where German tradition was to hide a pickle in the tree and the first child to find the pickle would get a special treat or present.
Norway does not allow cleaning on Christmas Eve as all brooms are hidden away in case evil spirits or witches come visiting. Not exactly the sentiment I’m looking for in a Christmas holiday but different strokes, right?
A very different stroke happens in South Africa where they eat dried caterpillars on Christmas Eve. Considered a delicacy that has more protein per ounce than beef, caterpillars are eaten dried like potato chips, fried and dipped in sauces or as part of a stew.
As bad as eating caterpillar sounds, Greenland has a truly gross palate as the recipe for Mattak should prove. Mattak is raw whale skin served with blubber. I believe two-buck Chuck and a sickness bag go well with it. Even less appealing is their dish called kiviak which is made by sealing five hundred auk birds into a seal skin and letting it ferment for seven months. I think a more apropos name for this dish would be kvetch.
Do you know what a schvitz is? In Estonia on Christmas Eve, the entire family gathers to schvitz or sauna together. As much as Estonians may love their saunas, they don’t hold a steamy finger to Finland which has 3.3 million saunas and 5.3 million Finlanders.
If you go to Ukraine, you will notice that they do not use ornaments, lights and tinsel like us. Ukrainians prefer to adorn their tree is spiders and webs. I’m guessing that they forego watching It’s a Wonderful Life for Nightmare on Elm Street.
Lastly, the Yule Cat, a monster-sized cat, stalks the Icelandic countryside at Christmas. Legend has it that this cat eats anyone who is not dressed warmly enough for winter weather. This myth was used to get farmhands to finish their wool making each year before Christmas. Farmhands who finished their work received new clothes. Those who did not, had to wear their raggedy clothes for another year and risked being consumed by the cat.
And with that, happy holidays to you and those you love.
Haddon Libby can be reached at 760.449.6349 or HLibby@WinslowDrake.com.