Here at Balcony Shirts, we present, for your delectation and delight, some unusual Christmas customs from around the World
Let’s start with the scary stuff. Krampus. Even the word itself is scary. Also known as ‘The Anti-Santa’, he’s definitely going to find out who’s naughty or nice. In the alpine regions of Bavaria, Hungary, Slovenia and especially in Austria December 6th is Krampus Day, when people don costumes and masks and roam the streets looking for people to beat with sticks. Clearly peace on Earth and goodwill to all men are not a priority. Meanwhile in The Netherlands Zwarte Piet is the bad cop to the good cop of Sinterklass. Since 1850 children have been warned that if they’re naughty Black Peter will take them off to Hell, or more specifically, Spain. No, we don’t really understand that bit either.
On to Scandinavia, where in Norway it’s customary to hide brooms, mops and brushes on Christmas Eve in case witches steal them to ride on whilst wreaking Christmas chaos and holiday havoc. Then there’s ‘Burning The Goat’ in the Swedish city of Gavle where the appearance of a giant straw goat signals the start of the holiday season. That sounds a bit funny in itself, but it’s followed by the bizarre prospect of locals disguising themselves in seasonal costumes in an attempt to get near enough to it to set it alight. What began as an act of vandalism has become a yearly tradition, to such an extent that the straw goat has only survived intact until Christmas Day once in the last 45 years.
Most of us would agree that one of the last things that you want at Christmas is a visit from a zombie. The Latvians clearly take the threat of this happening very seriously, and so hope that Mummers – dancing musicians dressed as gypsies and bears – will come to their front doors and drive the zombies and any evil spirits away. I don’t know about you but if I was in that position I’d be hoping that the Mummers would be dropping by too. And in Wales it’s not unusual (you’re expecting a Tom Jones gag now aren’t you?) for a gang of revellers accompanied by a Mari Lwyd (that’s a ‘grey mare’ to the rest of us… oh, alright then, a couple of nutters in a pantomime horse outfit) to arrive at the front door of a public house on New Year’s Eve singing what might best be described as ‘adult’ songs and verbally sparring with the people within. Happy new year indeed.
Food is a very serious part of any Christmas celebration, so it’s not surprising that some fairly odd things are happening with that too. In some parts of The U.S.A. going out for a Chinese meal has become commonplace, while in Japan you’re likely to see any number of KFC buckets being ordered at the local takeaway with Colonel Sanders figures outside dressed as Santa Claus. On a more traditional note, in Slovakia an old ritual requires you to knock back a measure of your favourite alcoholic drink then throw a dollop of Loska (bread with poppy seed filling soaked in water) at the ceiling. The more the Loska sticks, the better your harvest will be in the New Year. And let’s not forget the British Christmas pudding – if you make a wish while you’re stirring the mixture in a clockwise direction then your wish come true. Probably. Well let’s face it, almost definitely. Well it will won’t it?
In the Central American country of Guatemala many people give their house a serious clean before Christmas, amassing their collective rubbish in a large pile. They then put a model of The Devil on top and set light to it, hoping that the ‘Burning Of The Devil’ will mean that they have a Satan-free holiday. But maybe our favourite custom happens in Caracas, Venezuela, where between December 16th – 24th people are encouraged to travel to morning mass on roller skates. Children tie one end of a piece of string to one of their big toes then hang the other end out of the window for roller skaters to pull on as they go past. No really they do. It’s on the Internet and everything, so it must be true.
Here at Balcony Shirts ‘Christmas Customs’ has a slightly different meaning – call into our shop in the run up to Christmas and you’re likely to see our man Dave hard at work behind The Custom Bar producing any number of bespoke t-shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts, hoodies – you name it, he’ll be making it. He puts them together all year round, but he’s always really busy as we get nearer to Christmas; he can put pretty much anything – text, photos, graphics, logos etc – on a shirt, and prices start at a very reasonable £15 for a t-shirt with a one-sided print. He’ll make one for you if you ask him nicely, but don’t tell him we told you – he’s got enough to do as it is…
(Our shop can be found at 52 Windsor Street, Uxbridge, UB8 1AB; you can call us on 01895-239111 to discuss your ideas or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And why not have a look at www.tshirtprintinguxbridge.co.uk where you can find information on t-shirt design, directions to the shop and more.)