It’s no secret that a lot of mommas are “over” the whole Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. It’s a Christmas tradition that has made its mark in the homes of many for the past decade, but unsurprisingly many parents are tired of the elf and looking for new traditions to do with their kids this Christmastime.
The possibility for new stories, activities and more to try this Christmas are limitless, really, especially if you consider some of the well-known, diverse and even sometimes crazy Christmas traditions from around the world. Now, I know that it seems like no two family’s Christmas traditions are the same these days, but why not branch out a little this year and try something new and adventurous? Spice it up with Christmas traditions from around the world. You can make a new family memory and also feel happy about exposing your kids to different cultural expressions and norms.
For example, I’m sure many of you buy and decorate a tree during this season. Typically, in the U.S., we like having a conifer tree or evergreen in the home. But maybe you could try decorating a different tree this season just to shake things up? In New Zealand, people decorate Pōhutakawas (think tall myrtle trees with crimson red flowers) instead.
Haven’t decided what to eat yet on Christmas day? Well, in Portugal, they end the day with a big supper called Ceia de Natal. The menu consists of codfish with boiled potatoes and cabbage, rabanadas (much like French toast), aletria (a type of egg dish) and a dessert called filhoses that’s made of fried pumpkin dough. If that sounds good to you, google some of the recipes and give it a shot!
Now, Germany has a whole slew of fun and crazy Christmas traditions that everyone should try at least once. Kids leave their shoes outside the house on December 5th and parents fill them up with candy over night (while naughty children only get a tree branch in their shoe). Speaking of naughty kids, the Germans not only believe in Santa Clause, but also his demonic counterpart called Krampus. Imagine a large, black devil-looking goat who either beats bad children or, in some legends, drags them down to hell. Telling your kid about Krampus might instill more intent in good behavior than just threatening to get put on Santa’s naughty list. Just saying.
Things get even weirder in Catalonia (near Spain). There they have the Tió de Nadal, otherwise known as “the pooping log”. It’s pretty much a hollow log with stick legs, a smiley face, and a floppy red hat, is a yule branch with a scatological spin that they kids are asked to decorate and then place halfway into a fire on Christmas Eve. Every night until December 24, children are tasked with “feeding” the log by offering him nuts, dried fruit, and water. Kids must also cover Tió de Nadal with a blanket to ensure he stays warm and comfortable. Then things get weird. On Christmas Eve, all the kids beat the log with sticks and sing a little song (more like taunt) for the log to poop, i.e., the parents toss candies and presents behind the log for the children to eat. I still don’t know why Catalonia has this tradition or where it came from, but it sounds hilarious and I kind of want to try it with our son.
If these traditions all sound weird, here are a few more to consider: In Estonia, families traditionally go to the sauna on Christmas Eve. In Sweden, the Christmas dinner concludes with a festive rice pudding; a peeled almond is hidden in one of the desserts and whoever finds it will supposedly get married within a year. If you’re not afraid of messes, you could try what they do in Slovakia. There, the most senior man of the house takes a spoonful of loksa pudding and throws it at the ceiling – the more that sticks, the better (once again, I don’t know why).
Finally, in many Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Los Reyes Magos (the Day of the Three Wise Men) is celebrated on January 6th. According to tradition, it’s believed that the three wise men came to visit baby Jesus on this day, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. No Los Reyes Magos celebration is complete without a Roscón de Reyes, a delicious round cake with candied fruit on top. The fruit symbolizes the precious gems that adorned the Wise Men’s clothing. You can purchase this cake at any Mexican bakery in Austin. If you’ve never tried it, maybe 2018 is the year to do it.
Well, I hope you feel sufficiently inspired now to try some new Christmas traditions this year! Know of some other ones? Would love to hear about them!