The cool cats over at Yeity, the travel network for listless nomads, have an article just for you! Check it out to get a glimpse of some of the delightfully unique ways the Alpine Regions celebrate the festive season.
HOW THE WORLD DOES CHRISTMAS
While Christmas to some equates eggnog fuelled hangovers and shining mistletoe, to others, it’s a carolsome cringe-worthy occasion that always seems to end in tears and a skinny bank account.
And while travelling solo around the festive season can warrant moments of loneliness, the bright side is that you won’t be subjected to feigning grief as you unwrap tiny knitted tops and stocking-stuffer razors.
In fact, being abroad for Xmas can be one of the best times to experience the odd cultural norms of the Alpine states. Few realise that Christmas is actually a pagan tradition and celebrated with far more vigour and quiksomeness here. So if you’re in the land of the Vikings over the holidays, here are some festivals that’ll have you grateful you’re missing Uncle Bob’s spiked Christmas log.
The Yule Lads are harbingers of turmoil and are the equivalent of the widely popular Santa Claus—times thirteen. Habituating the rugged mountains, they were born of goblins and trolls, so it comes as no surprise that they have anger-management issues. For a twelve day period leading up to Christmas, a Yule Lad comes down into the villages and plays mischievous pranks on the folk people. The various tricks include sheep harassing and sausage snatching, essentially harmless to humans but terrifying to young children. Traditionally, it is believed a bad omen in Iceland not to receive new clothing as a Christmas gift and children will often offer a sacrificial shoe on their windowsills in the hopes that the Yule Lad of the day will leave behind a small present for them.
Sweden: The Gävle Goat
Scandinavians are spoilt for choice during Xmas, not only do they get all the trimmings of a customary Western holiday, but they also have a symbolic sacrificial goat that brings tidings of joy and presents to small children.
The town of Gävle in Sweden was the first to build a giant 13 metre tall goat effigy. Built completely out of straw—which coincidentally happens to be one of the world’s most flammable matter- the presence of the Gävle Goat provokes a ‘burning of the goat’ challenge amongst the locals. Since its inception, the festive statue has polarised the people – some want to save it while others plot its fiery demise.
If you’re in the area, there’s no better way to get some Christmas cheer than by placing bets on whether or not the goat will make it through the month – last year it was mysteriously burned on December 2nd.
To say that this grumpy fella is made of the stuff of nightmares would be an understatement –he makes the Grinch seem the preferable party guest and it’s a wonder that the children of Austria haven’t grow up with serious psychological issues. Krampus stems from the Old High German word ‘claw’, but you can call this guy the Evil Anti-Santa Demon. Contorted expressions, beady yellow eyes, and horns to impale misbehaving kids are just some of the many qualities that make him so handsome.
But as the old saying goes, being naughty is so much more fun, and on December 5th the locals of Scladming pay tribute the darker side of Xmas with a massive celebration. Come Krampus Night, the eve of St Nicholas Day, thousands of opportunistic Austrians consume healthy doses of alcohol and flock to the streets donning devil masks and sticks in hand ready to beat the first unsuspecting tourist—don’t be that guy, buy yourself a costume.
- Top 10 – International Christmas Traditions (essentialtravel.co.uk)
- Arsonists hot on the hooves of Gävle goat (thelocal.se)
- It’s Never Too Late For Krampus (philebrity.com)