Holiday Traditions that Make You Go WTF

22 Dec

I recently wrote about Holiday traditions I’d like to start traditionalizing (Mama Palin would be super proud of that one!). So the natural foil to such a post would be Holiday traditions that are of the non-traditional sort. I tried to organize these based on severity of disturbation (that’s two!) by the way…

Spider Webs as Christmas Decorations

In Ukraine, sparkly spider webs are often used to decorate Christmas Trees. Do Ukrainians just confuse Halloween and Christmas? Nope. According to the fairy tale, once upon a time there was a sweet Ukrainian family that was too poor to afford decorations for their Christmas tree. So on Christmas Eve some spiders took the liberty of decorating their tree for them while they slept! Alas our first strange holiday tradition is born!

KFC in Japan

Traditional Christmas dinner among millions of Japanese—most of whom are not Christian—is not turkey or ham, but a bucket of KFC. This offbeat custom is the legacy of a 40-year-old marketing campaign wherein the fast-food chain successfully convinced would-be Japanese customers that fried chicken is the traditional American yuletide feast.


Festivus is a secular non-commercialized holiday celebrated on December 23 brought into mainstream culture via the classic television show Seinfeld. The holiday has gained in popularity, as have the rituals associated with it. These include the Festivus Pole, the Airing of Grievances, the Feats of Strength, and Festivus Miracles. For specifics visit the most trusted name in news- Wikipedia.

Wisconsin has particularly strong ties to the holiday, for god knows what reason. In 2005, Governor Jim Doyle was declared “Governor Festivus” and during the holiday season displayed a Festivus Pole in the family room of the Executive Residence in Madison. Then in 2007, a Green Bay resident successfully petitioned the city to display a Festivus Pole next to the Nativity Scene in front of City Hall. That same year, the first Festivus Pole Lot  opened in Milwaukee. We Wisconsinites sure love our Seinfeld! or atheism! or something!

Brazilian Christ Kidnapping

In Brazil, they tell the Nativity story a little differently. First off- there are no shepherds, just shapely shepherdesses (insert wolf whistle). Secondly- the manger animals talk. And lastly (and most importantly!) after the Christ Child is birthed into the world, he is kidnapped by a renegade gypsy and the three wise men have to rescue him!!! I desperately searched for more info on this, but came up mostly empty handed… what an epic third act that would be huh??


Consoada is a traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Eve in Portugal that honors dead friends and relatives who can no longer join in holiday reveling. Typically you leave an empty chair at the table for the alminhas a penar (“souls of the dead”) who may be present at the feast. Leftovers remain on the table overnight for hungry ghosts who might drop in later. I can’t decide if this is mostly gross or mostly creepy…


I first read of Krampus (essentially St. Nick’s evil twin) a few weeks ago, and I was too disturbed to post. The demon like creature, native to Austria and Hungary, warns and punishes bad children. On the eve of December 5th, Krampus roams the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. He also carries a basket so he can pick up particularly bad children and haul them to hell (HOLY CRAP!!!). “Jennifer Marie- behave or you are going to hell with the Krampus demon” would have been decidedly more effective at keeping me in line than “Jennifer Marie- behave or you will be getting a lump of coal.”

Of course now counter-culture has embraced the demon and now you can attend Krampusnacht parties and Krampus Runs, during which rowdy revelers cavort through town in beastly costumes. Sounds like a party to me!

Zwarte Piet

According to Netherlandian lore, Zwarte Piet, or “Black Pete,” was Santa’s black African or Moorish slave. In addition to helping St. Nick distribute gifts, Pete was given the dubious task of abducting naughty children and whisking them off to Spain, which the Dutch apparently thought was just as bad as hell. To make matters as politically incorrect as possible- the person who plays the Z-Man appears in black face. this. is. tragic.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


One Response to “Holiday Traditions that Make You Go WTF”


  1. My Grown Up (ish) Christmas List Part 4 « The Mango Tree - December 23, 2010

    […] Leonidas sings and Emmy Rossum has the voice of an angel in this awesome musical movie. Its the only musical I’ve seen live on Broadway, so I’m particularly attached to it and its music. This DVD was on my Christmas list last year, but St. Nick missed it… or maybe Krampus stole it. […]

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