At this point, Krampus has become a well known phenomenon. There’s even an American Dad episode about the mischievous bringer of discipline. Krampus is a downright celebrity these days. Here are three lesser known strange and bizarre Christmas traditions.
The Poop Log of Catalonia
Tió de Nadal translates from Catalan to “Christmas log” or simply “tree trunk.” The other name for this Xmas tradition is Caga Tió, or poop log. Yes that’s right. It’s a log that poops out presents on Christmas Day.
It works like this, starting on the Dia de la Immaculada Concepció (Feast of Immaculate Conception, December 8th) you “feed” the Caga Tió sweets and candy. Each evening, after dinner, kids would save a peel from an orange or other fruit and place it in a feeding bowl in front of the little log. Bits of cookies and other sweets work as well.
Each night, you drape a blanket over the body of Caga Tió to keep it warm. We don’t want our gift-giving log to freeze in a cold winter home. This continues until December 24th, and gradually the log will grow in size (or maybe it’s the parents switching out the log for larger one).
Then comes the beating. You gather around your log and hit it with a stick to make sure it poops, all while singing a cute little song…
Caga tió, (Poop log)
tió de Nadal, (Log of Christmas)
no caguis arengades (Don’t poop salted herring)
que són massa salads (They are too salty)
caga turróns (Poop turróns)
que són més bons! (They are much better!)
Then, like magic, presents and candies (called turróns) appear under the blanket.
Ukrainian Christmas Spiders
In Ukraine, you will often see spiderwebs decorating the Christmas tree. This comes from an old legend about some rather helpful arachnids.
There was once a widow who lived in a tiny house with her children. One day, a pine one took root outside their home and the children tended to the growing seedling in hopes of having a splendid Christmas tree. Yet as the year slipped into winter, the widow knew that they would not be able to afford decorations. Finally on Christmas Eve, they set up the tree in their house, but its branches were bare.
That night, while they slept, the spiders of the house heard the sobs from the disappointed children. They went to work on the tree, spinning delicate webs on every branch.
The next morning, the youngest child opened a window and the first rays of sunlight sparkled against the new decorations. The light of Christmas Day transformed the webbing into silver and gold. From that day forward, the widow never wanted for anything.
Ukrainians still decorate their trees with spiderwebs to bring good luck for the coming year. So maybe don’t shoo that spider away too quickly on Christmas Eve. After all, they also need a warm and cozy place on a winter night.
Mischievous Greek Goblins
The Kallikantzaroi are mischief-making goblins who live in the center of the Earth. They spend the year trying to saw down the Tree of Life, which holds up the world.
During the Twelve Days of Christmas, they dig their way to the surface to bring their naughty tricks to our houses. This is the time, starting at the Winter Solstice, where the sun does not shift in the sky.
Tiny black creatures with long tails, the Kallikantzaroi are mostly blind owing to their life underground. Afraid of the sunlight, they only emerge at night, feeding on any small critters, such as frogs, worms and snails.
They sneak into your house through any cracked window, down chimneys, or through keyholes. Once inside, the havoc begins. They are not evil, per se, but impish and idiotic.
There are up to twenty different types of Kallikantzaroi and each specialized in a different type of mayhem. Some urinate on your cooking or imbue food with horrific smells. Others mimic voices to tease, torment or steal.
You can keep the Kallikantzaroi away by leaving a colander on your doorstep. These little imps will have to count all the holes, but they can only ever make it to two and then are forced to start over. You can also burn an old shoe — the foul smell will keep these pests away.
A link to the Norse tradition of Yule comes with a method to keep these goblins out of your chimney. You simply burn a log, but keep it going for all twelve days. Once you’ve reached January 6th, you are safe and the Kallikantzaroi return to the center of the Earth.