HAPPY HOLIDAYS! As a special celebration from the Viking Voice, we’ve decided to mix things up a little here. Instead of debunking myths as usual, this article is going to be a little different. We’re going to cover Five Strange Holiday Traditions! From Christmas Pickles to Devil-burning, we’ve got you covered. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

1. The Christmas Pickle

I mentioned it above before, so I figured I would start with it now. The Christmas Pickle is a small, pickle-shaped ornament that’s hidden in the tree on Christmas Eve. When everyone wakes up in the morning, the first person to find this ornament gets first pick on presents AND an extra special present. Cool, right?

But how did this tradition originate? It all started in Germany. There are many different versions, actually. The most sensible one has to do with street vendors. An ornament shop most likely was selling glass, fruit/vegetable ornaments, and the pickle was probably the best seller. Other less plausible origin stories include starving prisoners, dead children in pickle barrels, etc.

I guess we’ll never know. 

2. The Elf on the Shelf/The Mensch on the Bench

This is one of the most famous holiday traditions. Many of us have probably heard of this before: maybe even own one. For those of us who don’t know, you put the Elf on the Shelf/Mensch on the Bench (The Mensch on the Bench is the Jewish equivalent of the Elf on the Shelf) somewhere in your house. When you come home, it will be in a different place. It’s an ongoing hide-and-seek game for the family that owns the doll.

How did this tradition originate? No one really knows where the tradition came from, but it’s speculated that the Elf is a special helper. He keeps an eye on all of the children/families, observing if they’re naughty or nice. On Christmas Eve, all of the specialized elves return back to the North Pole to report to the boss.

Honestly? It just gives me the creeps.

3. Guatemala’s La Quema del Diablo

This tradition isn’t quite so common in America. What sounds like a beautiful Spanish name literally translates to “Burning of the Devil.” How does this slightly-violent activity work? It’s actually not that bad. It’s a new take on spring cleaning–in the winter. The Guatemalans clean out their homes of trash and unwanted items. They then BURN THE STUFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.
How did this strange tradition come around?? In South America, demonic spirits are said to live in filth and squalor. It’s said that when the trash is burned, the home is cleared of negativity and bad spirits.

Then, the festivities begin!

4. Mexico’s Flores de Noche Buena:

Here we have yet another South American tradition. This one is a lot nicer, though. The translation for this holiday is “Flowers of the Holy Night.” It involves poinsettias, a staple in Mexican Christmas. But how did these flowers come to be?

It all begins with a story of poverty and righteousness. According to legend, two poor children left a bouquet of wilted flowers at the foot of a church around Christmastime. However, all of the children laughed at their horrible offering. That’s all they could give? Heartbroken, the small, poor children cried. Their tears, though, revived the flowers. They blossomed into beautiful, star-shaped flowers. And thus, the poinsettia tradition was born. 

5. Iceland’s Yule Lad/Little Christmas

Which foot do you like better? You would have to decide if you celebrated this holiday. Children would put their favorite (or biggest) shoe in the windowsill on December 6. When they woke up, there would be small gifts and candy inside! Time to put those smelly gym shoes to work.

How did this sweet tradition begin? The Yule Lads/Fairies of the land would see if the children were naughty or nice. If they were nice, the children would receive small gifts and candy in their shoes. If the children were naughty, though, they would receive…

Wait for it…

A potato.

This small trick would make the children of Iceland behave their best during the time of the holidays.

There you have it!! Five Strange Holiday Traditions. So the next time you’re questioned for being naughty or nice, be sure to pull some of these tricks out of your sleeve.