With early December almost over already, we’ve cast our eyes over some of Europe’s Christmas traditions. And, we’ll be honest, we found some pretty weird stuff. Customs vary from dark and morose medieval superstitions like witches, ogres and demons to the downright inexplicable – Barcelona we’re looking at you. Read on to discover what goes on in Europe at Christmas time.
Gryla of Iceland
Twice divorced Gryla lives up in the mountains with her third husband Leppalúði. Come December time, she leaves their cave abode to go on the prowl for badly behaved kids. She deposits her catch into a pot of naughty children stew. She has thirteen mischievous sons but it seems its only other people’s children she likes for supper. The rest of Iceland indulges in tangerines and Laufabrauo (a crispy flatbread).
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Look out for spiders in Ukraine
Spiders are a common feature of the Christmas trees of the Ukraine. The folklore behind it tells the story of a poor family who couldn’t afford to decorate their tree. On Christmas Eve night, a spider spun enough silk to cover the entire tree and when the Christmas dawn light hit the dew clinging to the web; it sparkled and shimmered as if decorated with tinsel.
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Hide your brooms in Norway
In Norway, people hide their brooms, to stop all the witches from finding new sticks to ride off into the night. Obviously. The biggest stick of all, however, is made blatantly obvious by another Norwegian tradition – to walk around the Christmas tree in concentric circles, singing carols and holding hands. Dried mutton, lamb ribs or freshly caught cod take precedent over turkey here, often served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.
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Watch out for Krampus in Germany
Probably one of the better known European holiday traditions, made into a fun movie by Michael Dougherty. Krampus is the Anti-Claus – a horned demon who not only leaves rotten vegetables and other foul presents for naughty children but whips them for their trouble. It is custom to drink a Krampus schnapps and roast goose or duck filled with an apple, chestnut, onion and prune stuffing, not turkey, is the order of the day.
Enjoy Christmas Caga Tio in Barcelona
Caga Tio is a wooden log with a gleeful smile and a blanket covering his back end. He props himself up with two twiggy stumps so that children can feed him turron (nougat) and orange peel every night in the build-up to Christmas. Then he’s beaten with a stick to make him excrement Christmas presents and is duly tossed on an open fire. No joke.