For most, even for those born and raised in the tropics, the imagery associated with Christmas is that of snow, Santa, reindeers and sleds. We knew the stories of old St. Nick squeezing his way through chimneys as children, although the only places we had actually ever seen chimneys were on books or television. However, Christmas apparently takes on different forms in various corners of the world. For the purpose of this article I gathered three unique Christmas traditions to prove just how weird and wonderful the season can be.
The Yule Lads, Iceland
Fusing religious practices and traditional folklore Iceland’s Christmas mimics most Christmas celebrations around the world in that it is celebrated from December 23 to the first week of January. However, you are likely to see the 13 Yule lads – troll-like, troublesome characters – only in Iceland. For 13 nights children place their shoes by a window and a different Yule lad visits, leaving gifts for the nice and rotten potatoes for the naughty.
Mopane, Fried Moths, South Africa
Unlike the snowy Christmas often depicted in western Christmas advertisements, December in South Africa is about as sunny as it will get on the 470,900 sq mile country in the Southern Hemisphere. Like most other countries however, ham and turkey are often included in family feasts but one delicacy unique to South Africa is the fried Emperor Moth caterpillars. An important protein source in various parts of Africa, the creature’s harvest season occurs simultaneously with Christmas, when fresh specimens are gathered and fried making them a Christmas treat for some.
Although The Grinch is known for stealing Christmas, he comes nowhere near Austria’s Krampus – at least not in the looks department. Krampus is said to be St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice who goes around frightening children and punishing them for bad behaviour. With his beast-like appearance he goes as far as carrying off the naughtiest boys and girls in a sack. As unique as the tradition is, finding creative ways to keep kids in line throughout the year, and especially around the Christmas season is quite universal!