I’m bowled over. After asking readers who’ve joined the MIU team for input to Christmas in the Multiverse, I received some truly weird and wonderful ideas.
Unfortunately there were so many that nowhere near all of them made it into the story (I’ll have to write another one next year!). But I wanted to share some of my favorites.
So here are the five oddest Christmas traditions from this corner of the multiverse, i.e. Earth.
Yikes! I’m glad Santa is accompanied by elves and reindeer where I live. In Central and Eastern Europe he has quite a different sidekick: Krampus, or Bad Santa.
The Krampus parade takes place before Christmas and gives people an opportunity to dress up as the creepiest version of Santa I’ve ever seen.
Krampus isn’t a nice guy. He has a bundle of sticks to hit kids with, and looks more like Satan than Santa to me (although I’ve always wondered about the fact those two words are anagrams of each other…)
2. Colonel Santa
Japan is famous for its odd artificial food (just watch YouTube) and this doesn’t let up when there’s a holiday.
So at Christmas, instead of Santa, Japan sees Colonel Santa. In other words, the festive equivalent of KFC’s Colonel Sanders. Instead of turkey and mince pies, the Japanese celebrate the holidays with a bucket of chicken wings.
Shrodinger would approve.
3. Befana the Witch
We adults seem determined to scare kids out of their innocent minds at this time of year. Whether it’s forcing them to sit on a strange man’s lap, or telling them that the same strange man will be breaking and entering the house on Christmas Eve, our usual protectiveness goes out fo the window. Let’s just hope the idea of a burglar who brings gifts instead of stealing them is less terrifying.
But in Italy, they take things a little further by introducing a witch to the traditions. Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to Santa on Christmas Eve.
Like Santa, she does her breaking and entering via the chimney. But unlike Santa, she has a broomstick and a black cloak. And she’s covered in soot because of all those chimneys. She needs to invest in whatever on-the-go cleaning technology Santa uses.
4. The Christmas Log That Poops
The Yule log is a traditional Christmas treat in many European countries. It takes the form of some kind of chocolate cake in a log shape, often decorated to look like a log, with bark patterning and twigs.
But in Catalonia, the log has some impressive capabilities.
Named Tió de Nadal, the log isn’t a cake at all, but a hollow log resting on stick legs and wearing a little sock hat. On Christmas Eve, families put it in the fireplace and order it to poop. Kids are encouraged to beat the log with sticks, shouting at it to poop. Then they leave the room and it poops presents.
5. The Yule Cat
And finally, we have (of course) a cat-related tradition.
In Iceland, a giant cat known as the Yule Cat (or Jólakötturinn) is said to roam the countryside at this time of year. And eat people.
The tradition is that farmers would use the threat of the Yule Cat to motivate workers. Those who worked hard would receive new clothes to wear at Christmas. And anyone not wearing new clothes at this time of year would be sniffed out by the monstrous cat and eaten.
These days, people buy new clothes for Christmas to avoid being singled out by the cat. A good excuse to look smart for the holidays.
So if you your family get up to some odd things at this time of year, you’re in good company. Happy holidays!