I’m in kind of a funk this holiday season. Not depressed, more like cynical. Maybe it’s POTUS and his deranged antics, but nothing seems pure and sacred this holiday season.
Rather than fight it, I’ve decided to go with the feeling, so here is a collection of weird Yuletide traditions. There’s a lot more than this, of course, but these are the top ones that caught my eye.
#1 - Iceland Hag Gryla
Instead, you may encounter a menacing, witch-like figure named Gryla. She is a giant troll hag with hooves for feet and thirteen tails.
She is said to live in a cave hidden deep in the mountains, where she always keeps her cauldron boiling due to her insatiable hunger…for children. Each Christmas, she comes down from her mountain dwelling to hunt for bad children. She throws them in her sack and drags them back to her cave where she boils them alive for her favorite stew.
Gryla’s wrath is not reserved solely for bad children. She has been through three husbands already, two of which she killed because they bored her.
And, because those who shouldn’t reproduce always do, Gryla has thirteen children, all boys, who are described below.
Icelandic children place a shoe in their bedroom window each evening in the 13 days before Christmas.
Each Yule Lad has an idiosyncrasy of behavior, much like the Disney version of Snow White’s seven dwarfs. This is Spoon-Licker, who comes to visit on December 15.
Unlike their mother, they’re not really dangerous, just mischievous pranksters and petty criminals.
#3 – The Christmas Cat
The threat of being eaten by the Yule Cat was used by farmers as an incentive for their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. The ones who took part in the work would be rewarded with new clothes, but those who did not would get nothing and thus would be preyed upon by the monstrous cat.
Candy canes are a classic tree decoration, but as a stocking stuffers they’re so boring – unless you shake things up. Luckily, Amazon has a whole slew of questionable flavors.
Bacon, for those fanatics out there. You know who you are.
Maybe wasabi, for those who like their holiday spicy.
Or gravy? Eww.
Coffee? If you mixed it with cinnamon I might try it.
And, of course, pickle. Nom nom. They look festive enough for even the most traditional tree, and boy, would your relative’s kids be surprised.
We actually have one of these ornaments and search the tree for it every Christmas.
The first child who finds the pickle on Christmas morning gets a special gift and good luck all year.
Supposedly, the legend originated in Germany. The trouble with the legend is that people in Germany were unfamiliar with it. Glass tree ornaments are indeed made in Germany, but this particular glass pickle ornament actually became popular in America when F.W. Woolworth began importing them in the 1880s.
Every nativity scene should have one of these figures, at least if you live in Spain, Italy or Southern France. In those areas, the nativity is often a large model of the city of Bethlehem, and encompassing the entire city rather than just the manger.
The pastoral scene may include a farmhouse, with the child in a manger, and outlying scenes like a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds herding their sheep, and the Three Wise Men approaching on camels, a scene with the angel and shepherds, the star pointing the way, etc.
And tucked away in a corner, far from Mary and Joseph, is the Caganer.
The name “El Caganer” literally means “the crapper.” Traditionally, the figurine is depicted as a peasant, wearing the traditional Catalan red cap and with his trousers down, showing a bare backside, and a pile of, well, crap, on the ground below his butt.
Why? It seems the figurine is a symbol of fertility and good fortune for the land.
Of course, you can now buy Caganers in the image of Shakespeare, Michael Jackson, the POTUS, even the Pope. Why didn’t I know this at my last white elephant holiday party?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down bizarre Christmas lane. Maybe you’ve even picked up a few last-minute Christmas gift ideas!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS.