Creepy Christmas


Last weekend while I was away, I was fascinated by the different ways in which Christmas is celebrated. Italy is obsessed with automata – some very beautiful, some unbelievably tacky – that bring religious scenes to life.

When I lived in America, it felt as if Christmas was mainly represented by Coca Cola. In England it’s rather sedentary, Christmas Pudding and the Queen’s speech followed by a walk or a visit to a pub. But in other countries, stranger celebrations are afoot at Christmas.

Apparently in Romania this is festive dress. On 6 December St Nicholas puts small gifts in children’s shoes that have been polished and placed near windows, but if they’ve been bad they get a stick.

In Austria and Hungary, Saint Nicholas has an evil twin called Krampus who brings a stick to roam cities looking for children he could punish by whipping.

In several European countries it’s popular to hide a small statue of a boy taking a dump in the nativity scenes.

In the Czech Republic, Mikulas asks the children if they have been good and the angel writes their answers, but if you’ve been bad you’re thrown in the devil’s sack and taken to hell.

Italy obscures its beautiful churches with nativity tat, giant animatronic Bethlehem scenes full of rocking mangers and shoe-hammering carpenters. This one changes from day to night and is blocking the view of an original Tiepolo mural.

7 comments on “Creepy Christmas”

  1. Anatema says:

    In Cantabria (Spain) is a celebration of the first
    Sunday of the year called “The Vijanera” which takes place in
    Silió village. It is a very old celebration
    dates from Roman times. It welcomes the transition
    one year to another, represented by the “pregnant” which gives
    birth to the new year and in which there is a kind of
    Bear Hunt character that represents good omens
    for the coming year. Also sing a number of
    couplets in which the most striking feature that
    have happened during the year. It´s a
    “National tourist interest” and is very showy,
    especially by the striking man dressed in lamb´s skins and
    Campaign (bells). Here I post two links to video. 🙂

  2. Steve says:

    Interesting. Santa with an evil twin. Who knew?

  3. Steve says:

    Oh, and there is a BIT more to Christmas over here than Coke.

    Shopping for instance.

  4. Anne Fernie says:

    I suspect that Europe is slightly more in touch with the more pagany elements of the winter festival than we (who have taken up the U.S. version wholesale) are. I lived in Germany & loved Grampus. It’s very much that ‘if there is light there has to be dark’ thing – the whole season always felt a bit more elemental than the sterilised version we have here…….

  5. Steve says:

    Actually it put me in mind of the Heyoka, the Lakota sacred clown. Funny, backwards….and then the terrifying aspect (If you’ve ever been in the open during a thunderstorm in South Dakota, you’ll know what “terrifying” can be)of the same being(s), the Wakinyan or Thunder Beings. Two sides of the same coin. Of course there are many other mythological parallels, Osiris/Set and so on, but I picked one with which I was personally familiar.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    There’s also raven on the Pacific coast and coyote (Cree or Sioux). They are trickster figures, especially coyote, but raven brought light to the world as well as being a trickster. If you’ve ever heard ravens talking to each other and chuckling you’ll know why they are looked on that way.

  7. Steve says:

    And among the Cherokee the trickster is Rabbit. Being ON the northwest coast, well, ravens are a fact of life here.

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