There's nothing inherently normal about the ways Americans celebrate holidays. All rituals, no matter how much comfort and happiness we derive from them, are weirdly entropic and usually bizarre. And they're made all the more strange for supposedly being imbued with "magic" as if suspending belief in rational thought is a positive thing. I mean, leave aside the holidays for a second and think about the Tooth Fairy. Why do we tell our children to be cool with the fact that after a piece of bone falls out of their mouth, a fairy will break into the house, trade cash for the lost body part, and then fly back to wherever Tooth Fairies come from and add it to some morbid pit of teeth. Is that where the whole vagina dentata myth comes from? Who knows? And why is it cool to teach children that it's no big deal for the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus to break into our homes at night? It's totally creepy. But, well, while all those things are creepy, there are even more creepy traditions from around the world. You might have already learned to love the krampus today, but here are 5 more, totally fucked up traditions from around the world.
You know what's a fun thing to do at night with your kids? Especially on a cold, wintry night? Hanging out in a cemetery. Who wouldn't love/be scarred forever by that? Well, that's what they do in Finland! On Christmas Eve, Finns take their children to the cemetery to place candles on the graves of their loved ones. I'm sure all those flickering candles don't throw off scary shadows at all. I guess that there are aspects of this tradition that are heart-warming, but, mostly, it just seems nightmare-inducing to me. And I'm an adult. Sort of.
Italy is a Catholic nation. So, the Pope was totally against Santa because of what heathens Santa and Mrs. Claus are. After all, why don't they have children? Probably they use birth control. Godless animals! So, what do Italians have instead? They have la befana, who is an alcoholic witch? I think? I like her already! Basically, la befana does the whole presents for good children, coal for bad children thing with the added twist that she flies around on a broomstick and Italian kids leave wine for her. One other difference between the Italian Christmas witch and Santa is that she ALWAYS leaves coal for the kids, even if she also leaves good stuff, because Italian kids are ALWAYS a little bit bad. Which, really teaches us something about Italian kids, and the culture at large, and Silvio Berlusconi, I think. If we want to take it that far, which I do.
One of the best—and most fucked up—Spanish traditions is the placing of a caganer in the Nativity scenes in Catalan homes. Nestled amid the more traditional figures in the Nativity scene—Joseph, Mary, shepherds, the Wise Men—the caganer is the one that Spanish children love trying to find. What exactly is a caganer? Oh, nothing. Just a little guy taking a shit. That's right! It's tradition to put a defecating statue right near the baby Jesus' head.
In the Netherlands, Santa has a slave! He goes by the name of Zwarte Piet and he is Santa's most trusted, unpaid companion. And the Dutch people celebrate him every year by dressing up in blackface. Frequently, they also wear "Afro wigs and gold jewelry." How touching. Although, traditionally, Zwarte Piet was supposed to be somewhat slow-witted, he is now a little smarter and has risen in stature from "slave" to "servant." That's what you call progress.
You know, I never really thought too much about it, but Colonel Sanders bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, doesn't he? There's the beard and the white hair and the glasses and...that's about it, but that's enough! Apparently, the diabolical advertising geniuses behind KFC realized this connection decades ago and exploited the Japanese by convincing them that eating at KFC was what all Americans did during the holidays. And, so, now, "In Japan, Christmas equals KFC." I don't know. I'd much rather have an alcoholic witch throw coal at me than have to eat the genetically engineered chickens of KFC, but maybe that's just me?
Anyway. Happy holidays. See you in hell?
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