Ah, the holiday season. A time filled with joy and cheer, a season of giving and being thankful. As of today, about 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, along with 45% of the world’s population. But Christmas is not always celebrated with presents under a tree, or stockings above the fireplace. Christmas can be a tree riddled with spider ornaments and fake webs, a competitive radish-carving competition, or even a parade of horned hairy beasts terrorizing the naughty children of the world. From Iceland to Japan, here are a few of the many ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Instead of the beloved Santa Claus, the children of Iceland are visited by 13 mischievous trolls known as the Yule Lads. At least one lad visits every night, 13 nights before Christmas. They engage in mischievous acts corresponding to their names, such as Doorway-Sniffer, Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper, Candle-Stealer, Curd-Gobbler, and the ominously named Window-Peeper. Each lad takes turns leaving presents for the good, and rotting potatoes for the naughty.
Ukrainian children celebrate Christmas by decorating their trees with spider ornaments called ¨pavuchky¨ and fake webs. This is according to an old legend about a poor widow and her kids, cultivating a Christmas tree out of a pine cone, and not being able to afford any decorations. When they woke up the next morning, the tree was blanketed with cobwebs, which sunlight then transformed to gold and silver. This miracle is said to be the inspiration behind decorating Christmas trees with sparkly tinsel today.
And of course there’s Krampus, the Germanic goat demon sent to punish those on the naughty list. But there’s another strange entity to check up on families in Europe. Welsh families must prepare during the holiday season for the coming of Mari Lwyd. In an almost morbid ritual, two or more men drape a white blanket over themselves and attach a horse skull to the top. They then parade around their village, knocking on doors and singing to the families inside, who give them food or treats.
And finally, Japan. In a 1970s advertisement gone ridiculously successful, the image of Colonel Sanders in a Santa Claus outfit appears during the holiday season. The Japanese chow down on buckets of chicken and other KFC menu items to celebrate the holiday season is one of the best ad results KFC’s ever had. Imagine Colonel Sanders dropping down your chimney, and storing chicken under your beloved tree.
There’s many more ways to celebrate the holidays and spread Christmas cheer around the world, all different from each other. Christmas trees, mischievous trolls, or Japanese Colonel Sanders Santa Claus, celebrate your Christmas as you see fit.