There is a music box at my grandmother’s house of Raggedy Andy. It’s old and looks vaguely like something you would pick up at a garage sale. Once wound up, it plays a slightly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” One of my earliest Christmas memories involve Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house. Dinner is done, which means it is time for my grandmother to bring out the cake (always angel food covered in raspberries and cool whip). On top of the cake are four candles, one for each of her grandchildren. We were then required to sing “Happy Birthday.” To baby Jesus.
This was a normal Christmas tradition in my mind. I thought every family sang “Happy Birthday” to baby Jesus while a dilapidated Raggedy Andy played a haunting and demented parody of music. I sometimes still wake up, the sound of that music box tinkling away in the very corner of my dreams. Everyone has their bizarre traditions that may seem normal, but, belong in a horror film. From festive poop to goblins to spiders, here are some Christmas traditions that deserve a movie of their very own.
Strong in the hearts of crazy cat ladies everywhere is the Yule Cat, or Jólakötturinn as he is properly known in his native Iceland. According to Icelandic legend, this giant cat prowls through the country and devours anyone who does not have new clothes on Christmas. The origin of the legend is thought to date back to the dark ages when land owners would use the cat as a threat towards their workers to finish making wool in time for the wintry weather. Further proof that yes, your cat is judging you about everything, even your clothes.
Forget Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, in Catalonia the traditional nativity scene has an extra player. A man called the caganer, which essentially translates to “the defecator” who is crouched with, buttocks bared to the world, in the midst of performing a solid number two. Well…let’s hope it’s solid. This isn’t a new tradition either, it’s existed for at least two centuries, though the origins remain somewhat unclear. Much like being pooped on by a bird, however, the caganer is thought to bring good luck. Having been awoken in the dead of night by the stench of a freshly wafting poop from my cat’s litterbox on more than one occasion, I respectfully disagree.
Cookie Monster better watch out. One story from South Africa tells the story of a young boy named Danny. Danny loved his Christmas cookies and didn’t want to share with Santa. After consuming cookies meant for the big guy in red, his grandmother grew so angry she killed him. This may seem like an extreme reaction, but a part often left out of the story is that Danny was an ungrateful little shit who never said “please” or “thank-you.” Danny’s ghost supposedly seeks out naughty children who don’t take his cautionary tale seriously. Maybe this is why Cookie Monster switched to vegetables…
What is Christmas without a goblin or two? In Greece, the kallikantzaros are goblins that come above ground only during the winter solstice. They aren’t necessarily evil, but they are known for causing mischief. They sneak into homes wreaking mild havoc. You may be doubting their ability to carry a horror film, but need I remind you of a little movie called The Gingerdead Man (2005)? If we can make a horror film about killer gingerbread, mischievous goblins should be no problem.
Confession time: spiders terrify me. Logically, I understand that they’re awesome and good, and I do find them utterly fascinating, but the second one is in my house my gut reaction is to burn the building down. However, as a lover of all things that can be related to Halloween particularly at Christmastime, the Eastern Europeans have one tradition I can get behind. A common folktale told in Eastern Europe about a Christmas tree being decorated with spiderwebs has led to a tradition of ornaments of webs or spiders on the tree bringing good luck. While I’ll admit, I for one do not associate seeing a spider on my Christmas tree as “good luck” I would totally get behind a giant killer Christmas spider.
No list of terrifying Christmas traditions would be complete without Krampus, that loveable scamp whose main goal in life is to punish naughty children. Before you say anything, yes, Krampus does already have a movie about him. Multiple movies. But he’s awesome so he’s on the list. Obvious parallels to the devil can be drawn from Krampus’ appearance. He’s often depicted with horns and cloven hooves. Krampus pops up in a number of countries, including Croatia, Austria and even Northern Italy. The exact roots of the legend, like most Christmas traditions, are thought to be rooted in Pagan beliefs and traditions. Today, Krampus has become a household name and is celebrated all over the world.
The holidays are a great time to not only bring families together, but to also realize everyone’s family is sort of messed up. Which is why eggnog and hot buttered rum have also become traditional. Because if you can’t handle your family and all their weird traditions at Christmas, you may as well get drunk.
Rainsford, S. (2010, December 23) A Traditional Nativity Scene-Catalan Style. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com
Adrea, (2015, December 9) Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat of Iceland. Retrieved from http://www.lifewithcats.tv/
This article originally appeared in Belladonna magazine. https://www.magcloud.com/browse/magazine/1124238