1. “O’ Christmas pickle! O’ Christmas . . . PICKLE?!”

There’s nothing like gathering with those we love to decorate the family Christmas tree.  From the glitz of its garland to the twinkling luminescence of its lights, this beloved symbol of the season is a timeless tradition that, for many, marks the dawn of the holiday season.  But for some, the halls aren’t exactly decked until the Christmas pickle has found its way into the mix.  Yep, you heard that right: THE Christmas pickle!  But just where does this unique practice come from?

Thought to have originated in Germany (Although, not many native Germans have even heard of it.), the Christmas pickle is also said to have Spanish roots.  The German version of the tale involves a Bavarian-born Civil War soldier, who—due to the life-saving power of a miraculous pickled cucumber—overcame death, while Spain’s story depicts two young boys who were brought back to life by none other than St. Nick himself after having been murdered and their bodies dumped into a pickle barrel (Bizarre, right?). Despite its grim etymology, however, the Christmas pickle has become a holiday favorite around the world, for the first person/child to find it amongst the other Christmas tree decorations gets an extra present!

If you would like to incorporate this unique holiday tradition into your set of holiday practices, just do a quick online search for “pickle ornaments,” and voila!  You’re sure to find a pretty sweet “dill” on a Christmas pickle of your very own.

2. “On the first day of Christmas Colonel Sanders gave to me . . .”

When preparing their holiday menus, very few people think KFC; however, in Japan, a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe is all the rage!  Every Christmas, over three million Japanese families treat themselves to fried chicken from the fast-food favorite, a finger-licking good tradition that can be traced all the way back to December 1974.  Today—with holiday sales surpassing 10 times the usual—it is said that to guarantee your table has a crispy bird for the holidays, folks need to submit orders weeks in advance.

According to the BBC, after overhearing an American couple visiting his restaurant reminiscing those terrific turkey-stuffed holiday meals of days gone by, Harvard graduate Takeshi Okawara, the manager of Japan’s first KFC, had a life-changing dream.  Hoping to provide a nice substitute for the traditional American holiday feast, Okawara took his “Party Barrel” idea public, and that’s when “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii,” or “Kentucky for Christmas,” was born!

3 & 4. “Scary Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!”

We all know those people whose love of Halloween surpasses their mere tolerance of Christmas. For some, the holly jolly frivolity of the winter holidays is just too much to stomach.  So, whether this describes you or someone you know, take pleasure in these scary good, fun-sucking holiday traditions!

The Yule Lads

Preparing for the annual visit of the folkloric Yule Lads, a host of fairy-like, gnome-esque men bearing tidings of comfort and joy, Iceland’s kiddos place a single shoe on their windowsills in hopes of receiving a Christmas gift. However, for those naughty little tikes who misbehave, the Yule lads leave a simple, unexciting potato instead.  (Talk about a massive let-down.)  Though a harmless and fun Christmas custom today, the history of Iceland’s Yule Lads is far grimmer than one might have expected.  In fact, these fictitious figures were originally used by parents to frighten their children into submission by describing the Yule Lad’s eerie midnight visits. Should children disobey, it is said that the giant ogress Grýla, the mother of the Yule Lads, will descend from the highlands to kidnap them, douse their bodies with salt and pepper, and throw them into her pot o’ child-infused holiday stew.  Sounds . . . fun, right?

Krampus

A little more famous than the Yule Lad’s, thanks to a recent blockbuster film, Central Europe’s Krampus may be the scariest of scary holiday folktales.  One of the “companions of St. Nicholas,” Krampus, as you may know, is a horned “half-goat, half-demon” figure who preys on misbehaved children.  Though varying in evilness between Austria, Croatia, Italy, and other countries throughout the continent, it is widely claimed that Krampus, much like Santa, sports a sack purposed for transporting naughty children, who will later be drowned, eaten, or carted off to the underworld.  So, if you find yourself a little too tempted by the eggnog this year at the office holiday party, we would suggest you reconsider that second glass.

5. “All I want for Christmas is poo . . .”

While there is a vast cast of characters found in the traditional nativity, for the folks of Catalonia, Spain, this quaint, picturesque scene wouldn’t be complete with The Caganer.  But before you read on to learn more about this Christmas custom, remember that you asked for it.

Translating to some variation of “The Crapper,” The Caganer—usually dressed in traditional Catalonian garb—is a (Get ready for it.) pooping man, who is often tucked away in the corner of the average manger setup. Now, before you think this 200-year-old tradition to be sacrilegious, it is said to bring good fortune in terms of agricultural growth.  In fact, according to Smithsonian Magazine, for many, the defecating figure “symbolizes fertility and some legends in rural communities hold that a Nativity scene without a Caganer would lead to a bad growing season.”  And though no one knows exactly where the tradition came from, it is often said that it stems from the tale of a young shepherd boy who, upon meeting “the newborn king,” gave his best and only gift: a steaming cow pie. 

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