Ah Christmas! That strange amalgam of Pagan and Christian festivals, now come to be the biggest exercise in consumerism of the year.
A time of contradictions and excess, then, with it’s attendant customs and traditions; the Christmas tree, the sprig of mistletoe, the hanging of the stocking upon ones mantle and so on.
While these all seem perfectly normal to those of us that live in England, our traditions might seem odd to our foreign cousins, and likewise some of theirs come across as barking madness but hey ho, ho, ho each to their own. See for yourself.
The Christmas Spider
Tinsel originated in Germany, and was first made of very thin strips of beaten silver. It came about because of a folk tale concerning a poor family who couldn’t afford to decorate a tree for Christmas (in some versions the tree grew from a pine cone in their house, in others the family had brought a tree into the house).
When the children go to sleep on Christmas Eve a spider covers the tree in cobwebs. Then on Christmas morning the cobwebs are magically turned into silver and gold strands when sunlight touches them, which decorates the tree!
Back then, silver tinsel was horribly expensive (ironically) and so was the reserve of the rich, but when a synthetic equivalent was produced shortly thereafter it quickly became popular with everyone else in Germany, and thereafter the world.
A half-goat and half-demon creature that is the exact opposite of kindly old St Nicholas (Santa Claus).
If you are unlucky enough to live in Austria, or thereabouts, Krampus goes to every household on the 5th December armed with a Birch rod and thrashes all the children that have been bad throughout the year.
Particularly naughty children are thrown into a sack and never seen again, presumably taken back down to whatever hell he sprang from. Santa then does his rounds at the usual time and rewards the good and kind kids that are left. A terrifying character, and probably a lot more effective at inducing good behavior than threatening the loss of that Xbox they’ve been promised;
‘Now, if you don’t behave you’re going to hell!’