Nothing beats Christmas time when you are a kid. My family has always held our big holiday celebration on the 24th. The whole clan, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., would gather on Christmas Eve at my grandparents house. We would start out the evening with a big ham and tamale dinner. Yep, you read right. It just isn't Christmas in South Texas without tamales. Family tradition!
Then, my grandmother would take the kids out to the back porch and tell all 14 of us cousins the Christmas story. And, if she needed to stall a bit longer until the presents were laid out and the stockings filled, she would get us to all sing every Christmas song imaginable. Fourteen kids, and absolutely no vocal talent...my poor grandma. It wasn't long until you heard the sleigh bells ringing in the other room, and we all knew that Santa had bumped them on his way out of the house. We'd run into the living room just in time to see the front porch screen door slam shut. Once again, we had "just missed seeing Santa!".
Our family traditions made for great childhood memories. And it got me thinking about other countries' Christmas tradition.
For instance, I know in Germany that they don't have a traditional Santa that comes on Christmas Eve. But they do have the legend of St. Nikolaus who visits children on the night of December the 5th (or morning of the 6th). Deutsche Kinder leave their boots outside in hopes that St. Nik will bring them some goodies. If the children was generally well behaved throughout the year, then they receive small gifts of nuts, fruit and candy. But, if the child has been a little too naughty, then he or she receives a switch for punishment.
Oh, but that isn't even the worst part. In an act to get these bad kids to straighten up, St. Nikolaus' side kick, Knecht Ruprecht, steps in to scare the living day lights out of these poor children. You see Knecht Ruprecht, or Servant Ruprecht, plays the roll of the bad cop in this myth. He frightens the naughty boys and girls by threatening to punish the bad children if they don't clean up their act before Christmas. According to Wikipedia, it even says that some believe "he threatens to put badly behaved children in a sack and bring them away to the dark forest. In other accounts he throws the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children." If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of a little kid, than I don't know what does!
Is someone maybe a little envious of all the attention St. Nikolaus gets??!
CC of srogan on Flickr
Similar to Knecht Ruprecht, or even the same creature in some places, is the very frightening and evil-looking Krampus. He is an absolutely terrifying version of St. Nikolaus. A Christmas legend in the Alpine region, young men, usually drunk out of their mind, dress up as Krampus during the first part of Advent. These Krampus role players are particularly present on the night of December 5th, where they roam the streets frightening children, and looking to beat the naughty people with switches. I am not sure how prevalent this tradition is (I for one have never seen Krampus, at least not outside my worst nightmares), but multiple online sources seem to say that Krampus is still a big part of Christmas in the Alpine region. So yeah, how creep-eee! Sounds a bit like Mardi Gras...on acid.
WTF Austria, are you for real with this?!
CC of salendron on Flickr
But really, I guess that everyone's traditions sound 'weird' if they are different than your own. I can only imagine how strange Santa Claus might sound to someone unfamiliar with his whole story. Oh sure, everything about Santa is perfectly normal. First, he watches your every move throughout the year. He sees you when you are sleeping, and he knows when you're awake. He has these tiny little men that are forced to work night and day for him, with no pay. Then on Christmas Eve, he climbs on your roof and slides down the chimney. I mean, what is more heart-warming than an overweight, old, stranger breaking into your house when everyone is asleep?
Just kidding Santa, love you!
CC of Vanessa Pike-Russell on Flickr
CC of Vanessa Pike-Russell on Flickr