With the silly season upon us, it’s best to glance at other cultures for Christmas inspiration. Or for lols. You know, whatever.
There’s an ancient Japanese proverb, all about honouring the solemn, entirely native Japanese holiday of Christmas. Passed down for generations, the poetic クリスマスにはケンタッキー (“kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii,” loosely translated as “Kentucky is for Christmas”) has been a source of inspiration for families across the nation for eons. Or decades.
It of course refers to the revered traditional Christmas meal of fried chicken and the sacred pilgrimage of pre-ordering your chicken weeks, even months in advance.
This is of course in no way due to an advertising campaign, which asked the people of Japan to “show thanks for Christmas with KFC’s chicken” in 1974, and to this day commands upwards of three million orders each year.
Yes, that’s right. Shock horror. Different cultures have different traditions. Understandably, this is quite a heavy realisation, and you may want to take a breath before reading further.
Okay, sure, the buying of the Colonel’s delicious chicken year-on-year since 1974 doesn’t really scream “tradition” but even that seems somewhat close to the traditions of Australia and the like. Trade the chicken for turkey and it suddenly doesn’t seem too far off.
Indeed, even Japan’s million-fold indulgence in the secret herbs and spices seems fairly tame compared to the actual Christmas folklore found across Europe. Like the charming, mischief causing Christmas Eve witches of Norway, who seek to reek havoc on your laundry cupboards.
Norway and Denmark – Supernatural criminals
These wicked witches, so in need of transportation options, ransack Norwegian homes, taking all cleaning supplies in sight. That is, unless your family has the foresight to hide them. Witches are notoriously bad at Where’s Wally style object-finding games.
From the same family, but with a little more festive cheer, Denmark gets its own prankster, in the form of an elf named Nisse.
This Hobbit cousin holds presents to ransom, bringing terror and tantrums to children everywhere unless he is given some rice pudding or porridge.
Once he eats, he vows to be nice, and I think we all can relate to that a little bit.
Catalonia – Feeding the Christmas Log
Catalonia also celebrates a Santa-free Christmas, propping up a log on sticks, called the “Tió de Nadal”. Children are encouraged to feed the log (which is a concept that still evades me) and cover it with blankets in the lead up to Christmas, before the celebrated log is lovingly placed in the fireplace.
Just as is tradition to do the same to old Saint Nick, the burning log is the beaten with sticks, until it “poops” small presents.
“Presents” in this case being more a collection of wooden ashes than any sort of joy-bringing gift.
Iceland – Placating to fictional ex-gang members
Don’t worry, for every nation unblessed by the fat bearded man, Iceland has them covered – you know, in case they feel like giving it a trial run. Their thirteen “Yule Lads” (who sound more like a gang in your local shopping centre car park than a festive spirit) come to Iceland two weeks before Christmas, and leave soon after the holiday.
The fashion-conscious Icelandic children leave their shoes by their windowsills, hoping the Lads will leave them small gifts, and not cause the mischief they were formally known for.
It is unknown why the Lads ditched their old, law-breaking ways, but we should congratulate them on their fantastic turnaround, and offer them whatever support they need. Bless.
Venezuela – The 1990s
You may be remiss for thinking Australia’s system of a once a year scheduled present drop by an old man capable of moving at incredible speed seems quite pleasant by comparison, if not entirely consumeristic.
Alas, our Christmas traditions pale in comparison to Venezuela, whose Christmas cheer is celebrated by taking a trip back in time to the early ’90s. The South American nation celebrates the holiday by going to mass – not by car, of course, but by roller-skates.
You might get your child a PlayStation for Christmas, but unless you plan on roller skating down to the store, your Christmas just won’t stack up.
In any sense, even if our Christmas traditions do seem to divide us, there is one thing that unites us all, and it is that which is core to the holiday spirit: massive spending.
After all, no matter where you are in the world, you can talk about family and tradition as much as you’d like, but it’s just not Christmas unless your bank account says so.