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12 Bizarre Christmas Traditions Around the World

What I mentioned above are some of the traditions which we all can observe every year here in our beloved country. But have you ever wondered about the other countries’ tradition? Here are some of the most bizarre holiday traditions worldwide.

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By Michellene Joy Camcam

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (admit it, you sang that part.). It’s the season where you take the time to prepare for the annual Noche Buena, to finally complete your promise for the past eight years to complete the Simbang Gabi, and to create a master plan how to efficiently and effectively hunt down your Ninong and Ninang because Pamasko is no laughing matter. Wars have been waged for that elusive small red envelope.

 

What I mentioned above are some of the traditions which we all can observe every year here in our beloved country. But have you ever wondered about the other countries’ tradition? Here are some of the most bizarre holiday traditions worldwide.

Caganer in Spain

 

A picture taken on September 26, 2016 shows ceramic figurines, called "caganers" (poopies), representing US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R) and US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, ahead of the first campaign debate between both candidates. Statuettes of well-known people defecating are a strong Christmas tradition in Northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, dating back to the 18th century as Catalans hide 'caganers' in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends to find them. The figures symbolize fertilization, hope and prosperity for the coming year. / AFP / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

“El Caganer” literally means “the shitter”. Traditionally, it is a figurine depicted as a male with his pants rolled down mid-squat, showing his porcelain bum. I was going to tell you a poop joke but it’s really crappy. (Get it? Crappy? No? Okay.)

 

The version of Catalonians’ nativity scene has the caganer tucked away into a small corner, doing his own business, oblivious to the birth of the messiah happening few meters from him. It really give a whole new meaning to holy sh*t.

 

There are a lot of interpretations about this ranging from the figure representing the equality of people (apparently because everybody poops) to symbolizing the idea that God will manifest Himself when he is ready, regardless whether we are ready for Him. As to why they chose a squatting mid-fecal-ejection figurine to symbolize this idea is anybody’s guess. Maybe because when the Judgment Day comes, most of us will be caught pants down. Pun definitely intended

 

Folklore says that the farmers would be punished with poor harvest and bad fortune if they didn’t include a caganer within their nativity scene. Still, others believe it is a tradition grown from comic relief. Now I really want a version of El Caganer in our country.

 

Krampus in Austria

krampus

Expa/Photoshot

Even Christmas season has its own monster. The yin to Santa’s yang. Krampus is more or less Santa’s partner like Mario and Luigi, if  Mario is an old fat man who doesn’t know how to shave and blatant disregard for animal welfare and child privacy and if Luigi is a blood-crazed Christmas demon that likes to beat children with birch branch

 

Krampus himself historically comes around the night of December 5, tagging along with St. Nicholas. He visits houses all night with his good pal, and while Santa Claus was on hand putting candies and gifts for the good kids, Krampus beats naughty kids with birch branches or sometimes, if he’s feeling under the weather about all that birch-beating business, Krampus will abduct kids and stuff them to his sack whisking them away to be tortured or worse, make them listen to Willie Revillame’s mixtape non-stop, forever.

 

KFC Christmas in Japan

Photo from japanator.com

Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Japan because of all that stuff about Shinto, but a December 25th tradition began and it centers on KFC. The craze started when the management of KFC revealed their first Christmas meal for visiting foreigners who wanted something that resembled a traditional holiday dinner. Turns out, the locals embraced the Christmas dinner a little too seriously, jump starting a unique ‘Christmas’ tradition that spawned three anime series, a live-action adaptation, 50-volume manga series, a game show, noodle branding, and a permanent addition to Japan’s mascot army. Just kidding.

 

Mari Lwyd in Wales

Photo from visitwales.com

The Mari Lwyd is a folk custom that consists of a horse’s skull that is decorated with ribbons and affixed to a pole; at the back of the skull a white sheet is attached, which drapes down to conceal both the pole and the individual carrying the infernal device. There’s nothing morbid about parading a white-washed skull of a deceased equine.

 

This custom is usually performed around dates of Christmas and New Year. The Mari Lwyd party consists of seven men who practically just play around and have some fun. The folklore says that their presence is said to bring good luck to any home or place they enter.

 

Cemetery Tradition in Finland

Photo from Michigan Technological University website

Although going to a boneyard might seem out of place for the festive season, in Finland, it is a tradition to visit your buried relatives at sunset on Christmas Eve. Seeing hundreds of glowing candles in the snow can somehow be uplifting and serene. Their cemeteries also have memorial features where people can light candles for those who are buried elsewhere. Talk about how much they respect their dead, right? At least, Sam and Dean Winchester won’t have to take time visiting Finland to cast out enraged ghosts.

 

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La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil) in Guatemala

Photo from Reuters

Around the 7th of December, Guatemalans sweep their homes, collect the trash around their property, and create a massive heap of litter on the street. The piles are crowned with an effigy of the devil and set on fire, and the Christmas celebration can begin.

 

It is said that it’s a symbolic cleansing ritual to obliterate evil spirits and negative energy throughout the upcoming festivities because blasts Satan from his socks that a well cooked crisps of burned garbage. Not today Satan, not today.

 

Yule Lad in Iceland

photo from fjallasyn.is

In Iceland, children leave a shoe on their windows from the 12th to the 23rd of December. While they sleep, the folklore says that 13 magical Yule Lads or Yuletide-Lads trek their way down the mountains and leave treats in the shoes of well-behaved children while the naughty kids have rotting potato instead. Yuletide-lads became the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. But personally I think the children of Iceland are not that lucky having 13 Santas. One Santa entering your home while you sleep is creepy enough, imagine what 13 of them can do to you. Actually, Yuletide-lads originate from Icelandic folklore with each individual ‘Lad’ varies in personality from mere prankster to homicidal monster who eats children. It’s basically Santa and Krampus combined, times thirteen.

 

Hogmanay in Scotland

photo from panarmenian.net

While December 25 is usually a time for quiet reflection and bonding with your family, Hogmanay is a loud occasion celebrating the entrance of a new year. One of the most important traditions is called ‘First-Footing’. Once midnight strikes, signaling the start of the new year (January 1), all eyes await the arrival of the year’s first visitor. The person who crosses the home’s threshold first is said to be a predictor of good fortune in the year ahead.

 

Take note, this is not just any person in your premises. It should be a man or a woman with dark hair because they said that blondes bring bad luck, as if blondes weren’t unlucky enough. The ‘first-footer’ is also supposed to bring the household an array of gifts including coins, bread, and whiskey. Now that’s what you call high maintenance tradition.

 

Spider Web Tree in Ukraine

Kate Renkes

Ukrainians dress up their trees with spider webs to welcome good luck into the coming year and no, this is not a Halloween decoration. An ancient lore tells of a poor family who grew a Christmas tree from a pinecone, the children are so thrilled by the idea of their own tree and spent months dreaming up ways to decorate it for the holiday but the family was penniless, they don’t have enough money to buy themselves a good Christmas decoration. Upon waking up, the children discovered that spiders have spun webs of silk around the tree’s branches and soon magically turned into silver and gold as the morning sun danced upon the tree’s bows.

 

Befana in Italy

Mercatini per la Festa della Befana

photo from www.napolike.it

In Italy, you should not waste time sending letters to Santa Claus for your anticipated gifts because an ugly yet kind old witch named Befana controls the gift-giving duties in Italy.

 

As per tradition, on the eve of January 5, parents must leave out a plate of regional cuisine for Befana for promise of a stockings brimming with treats the next morning. It is said that the good old witch flies around the country with a broomstick (because how else would  a witch travel?) entering each house by the chimney and delivering toys, clothing, and candy to well-behaved children.

 

Mummering in Newfoundland

Johan Hallberg-Campbell/The Guardian

Newfoundland has a long tradition of Mummering (which is also done in other parts of Europe)– the practice of visiting neighborhood homes while dressed in elaborate disguises. They don’t just dress differently, they also make sure that their voices and even their acts are way different over the top than usual. Through singing, dancing, and comedic acting, the mummers try to remain unrecognizable to the people they’re visiting. If the homeowners identify the mummers, the unmasked reveler is gifted with food and drinks. This is basically a fun Halloween.

 

Beach Party in Australia

Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

In Australia, the holidays fall during summer. There’s nothing more Aussie way of celebrating the holidays by heading to the beach to indulge in picnics, swimming, and volleyball. Instead of creating snowman, they settle for building sandcastles or maybe a sandman, if there’s even such a thing.

Each country has its own quirky tradition during the holidays, some may seem odd to others due to the difference of cultures. No matter how crazy the practices were, it all sends a message of love, prosperity, and peace for us to accept and wallow.

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Continuing to break the silence

As we come near the end of Women’s Month, Danielle Baranda looks back on the continuing impact of the #MeToo movement.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Raslton/AFP.

This month is a celebration.

This month, women from all over the globe unite and stand together as one solid frontier. This month is a reminder of the change continuing to unfold right in front of us—we are reminded and we celebrate women of all races and skin color. We tip our hats off to those brave voices we heard just last year, and further elevate those who are still falling short.

All it took was one voice that mustered the courage to speak up. A voice that resonated among a mass of silenced victims, a voice that would point out its oppressor and lead to several others following suit—several voices crying out, “Me too!”

Just as 2017 ended, we at TomasinoWeb looked back at this movement in its entirety (READ: #TWenty: The 2017 TomasinoWeb Year-ender—#MeToo). The fast pace of how allegations surfaced left and right was overwhelming that attempting to summarize it in one whole article proved to be difficult, but that was a good thing and it still is.

Three months into the year and the stories still keep on coming. Come to think of it, it has become the new normal. In our first analysis of the #MeToo movement, the sad normal reality we had come to conclude at the time was that people were dismissing these stories as nothing out of the ordinary.

A lot has changed since then, and admittedly, not everyone is happy about it.

Last January, Taken actor Liam Neeson went on the record in defense of his friend Dustin Hoffman. He dismissed the still growing #MeToo movement as having turned into a witch hunt, but has it?

The idea of gray zone sex recently resurfaced after an online post regarding an uncomfortable sexual encounter involving Parks and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari went viral. According to an article from The New York Times, the gray zone is defined as a sexual encounter that cannot necessarily be filed under the tag of sexual assault but is also a little too disconcerting to be simply named as a bad date either.

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Another allegation that initially floated around last year which still found its way this year involved American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Although coming out of the allegations relatively unscathed due to a two month investigation instigated by the E! Network which ended in favor of Seacrest, still there are persistent skeptics.

It is important to take note that Ryan Seacrest is the producer of everyone’s beloved Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making him a key stakeholder within the network which brings me to the very point of this little update—like everything else, the #MeToo movement is not perfect, but that does not mean that it is a witch hunt nor is it a trend that’ll one day just fade away.

It is our duty to listen to these voices still coming forward. Yes, there may be discrepancies when it comes to their stories, but let us not forget that these women are trying to recall and retell a story of how they were abused. And that will never be an easy one to share.

Let us make it easier for them and learn how to listen better. Let us continue to raise questions and look at things critically. Despite these movements, women still face great challenges when it comes to speaking out and taking a stand for themselves.

Before you question a woman’s authenticity, please take a moment to stop and think about how much she is risking to do what she is doing because I can assure you, she is probably risking more than she will be getting in return.

We left 2017 by starting something bigger than ourselves. As previously stated, it is far from perfect, but that cannot negate the giant leaps it has brought for women everywhere. The end goal was never to tip the scales entirely in our favor—it was, and always has been to merely balance those said scales. We are almost there, ladies. Keep fighting.

 

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Film Fridays: Enjoying films underneath the stars

Sometimes, a chill Friday after an exhausting week is all we need—a rest for the mind and feast for the eyes.

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

It was Friday… again.

It was the day where all responsibilities were crammed within the 24-hour period, with only caffeine and the thought of “weekend” to survive.

But it was not just any ordinary Friday.

Lounging at a grassy field underneath the starry night while watching good films, Thomasian Film Society’s Film Fridays gave me life.

Snacks were given to the first 150 participants and also you’d get to watch spectacular films under the night sky. Sitting on the grass, side by side with your friends or even your significant other—well, in my case, only just a bag of popcorn in my hand while The Blanks performed covers as well as their original songs.

We all know that the company of good food and good music could always make us feel better, right?

Sineng Sine Films like Bilang, Bakokang and Larawan were featured during the first Friday of the event. These three managed to make the viewers hold their tears as the audience was moved with each of the film’s stories. A plot involving death, betrayal, and lies within a family would always make everyone shift in their seats.

After the film showing, award-winning directors Nerisa Picadizo, Jaynus Olaivar and Marvin Cabangunay shared their experiences on filmmaking where their stories inspired the aspiring filmmakers.

“Go out there and do it!” Picadizo exclaimed. Her voice was filled with so much enthusiasm that everyone can’t help feeling the same way.

Well, have I mentioned that this was not a one-night thing? After the first day, everyone was ecstatic as the 2nd of March came knocking on our doors as Mikhail Red, the director of internationally-recognized and award-winning film Birdshot, came to town.

The director gave us the opportunity to look upon his journey as a filmmaker and shared to us the hell he—together with his crew—went through before, during and after every film.

Starting at a very young age, he started filmmaking at 15 years old and after a decade he’s still doing the very first thing he fell in love with—creating unique films with a touch of Western flavor.

Listening to his story wasn’t the only thing he prepared for the attendees of Film Fridays. He even generously shared to us the trailers for his films like Rekorder and Neomanila—and it didn’t stop there! Aside from sharing a secret with us (which you’ll never know until before the end of the year, he also teased us with his new film in the works, Eerie, a “not your typical Filipino horror film” as well as his future projects.

But with all the upcoming short films, wouldn’t you feel restless, too? Despite that, I know all of these were worth waiting for.

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The fate of Maria Clara and women empowerment

We are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

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Art by Baron Balaba/TomasinoWeb.

He called me pretty.

Sexy, beautiful or maybe even asked me to smile. I do not recall exactly what words those were. I did not take the time and pause to hear what he said, nor look at his face. But today, a man I did not know called me pretty.

My mother always reminded me to wear decent clothing and by decent, meaning clothes that do not reveal too much of my body. I do not blame her. Most mothers remind their daughters to do the same for their protection, specifically protection from our misogynistic society. She’d always say: “Wag mo sila bigyan ng rason para bastusin ka.”  I followed my mother’s advice; I dressed up as decent I can be and yet, even when I’m wearing my school uniform, strangers would catcall me in the streets.

It isn’t always just in the streets where I feel uncomfortable about my body. It also happens at family gatherings, when my relatives would joke about my weight. I am not a size 2 nor do I have a supermodel figure. I am a size 8 and I have a thick body frame, in which I have no problem with. But when the jokes about my weight are brought up, it makes me feel invalidated, that there is something wrong with me: “Uy, ang taba mo na!”, “Parang kailangan na natin magdiet ah”, “Gusto mo mag gym?” and the worst one yet, “Nako, walang manliligaw sayo pag ganyan katawan mo”. Again, I don’t blame my relatives; it is just something that we Filipinos are used to. Society has taught us to keep a figure that is slender, and not be fat or obese because to be fat or obese means there is something wrong with you and if you’re a woman, you are not appealing to a man as if your whole future depends on finding a man to marry.

But more than just the clothes every woman like me is asked to wear or our bodies, there is a social order in which each gender is assigned to follow. For women, specifically in the Philippines, we are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

Society has confined women in this social order: To follow, to be controlled and be quiet.

In comparison with the men in society, they are not asked to wear “decent” clothing for them to be respected, nor is their weight not a huge issue. Moreover, they are not asked to be quiet or to be meek, and there will always be an excuse for their actions, good or bad: “Boys will be boys”. Though there is still a social order that men follow, that they are not allowed to be soft or feminine, but it is not as suppressing as for women.

It is undeniable that our society is patriarchal. Men are believed to be more superior to women, making them secondary. The Philippines being a Catholic country, our beliefs are mostly based on the Catholic bible. According to St. Paul, women must become subjects to their husbands, which doesn’t mean entirely bad but implies women must follow their husbands as they are the head of the family. It isn’t only in religion women are seen as secondary to men. A lot of films, commercials and print ads revolve around narratives in which women are seen as subjects for the male gaze. One of which is the advertisement for beer, a woman is usually present, in which has no connection with the bottle of beer, but to give emphasis on the man’s masculinity.

This idea validates the power of men over women. The things we see on TV, the internet, films and so much more, that show women as secondary to men contributes to the still on-going misogyny present in our society.

Though times have been changing, and a lot of women fought for the discrimination that has been happening for the past years, it is uneasy to say patriarchy is still here. That is why a lot of people still fight against it, may it be in the streets or online. Social media has been a great avenue for voicing out ideas and opinions. It is also an avenue for reaching out to people and inform people of what is happening outside the online world. One of which is the recent #MeToo movement, wherein women shared their stories of being harassed and abused by men in particular.

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Social media has been a place where women empowerment is well talked about. A lot of posts and tweets that say, they are for women and believe women should be respected, and it gets a lot of shares and retweets, in which is a good thing as it could inform more people about women empowerment. But there are also tweets and posts that are women positive but the empowerment only lives in the post or tweet alone. I know a lot of people who tweet or post such things but when outside the online world, they do not stay true to their words. Moreover, there are also people who post and tweet that they support women but in fact they only support themselves or are only for women when it’s convenient. And lastly, there are also people who say that they empower women, when in fact they only empower women who are privileged.

I am not saying that those women whom I call privileged do not feel discrimination or harassment, nor see them as shallow. It is safe to say that I am one of those women, and many of my women friends are also privileged. There is nothing wrong with empowering ourselves. But then again, when we say women empowerment, it must include all women. What about the women at the lowest of the lowest? Who empowers them?

It is easy to say that you empower women by posting a tweet with hashtags such as #MeToo or #TimesUp, but women empowerment is more than that. It is more than sharing your own “I was catcalled” story, or your body positivity story. There are women who are constantly abused by their husbands but do not say anything out of fear. There are also marginalized women at the bottom of the bottom who are sold for sex, even girls as young as the age of seven who are abducted for slavery. There are young women who are unable to access education because they cannot afford it, and women in poverty who are hungry due to the unequal access to employment, resources and social services because women are seen to be weak. Who speaks for them?

Again, I am not saying that street harassment and catcalling, body negativity or the “kababae mong tao” problems are shallow. They are also problems that should be addressed. Because when we let these little things happen, we allow bigger things to follow. Those little things are what lead us to suppressing women as weak and subjects to be controlled by misogyny. When we teach society that we, women, should be quiet and be Maria Clara, we teach them to be silent and eventually not to speak for themselves. Maria Clara obeyed his father and all the men around her. Her decisions were made by the men around her, and in the end she ended up raped by Padre Salvi and she kept silent about it because she was taught that the ideal woman should be quiet.

Women empowerment is more than posting or tweeting that you are one with women, or wearing an H&M shirt that says “The Future is Female”, there is nothing wrong with it but it must not stop there. Women empowerment is about speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, which includes all women in all classes. It is speaking for those Maria Claras who remain silent about their suffering. It is for all women, not just for those who are convenient to empower.

In all honesty, I too question myself and what have I done for women. But I am still learning on what can I do and how can I empower them. Eventually, I hope that I, and everyone else, can contribute in empowering all women, so that in time no woman will be ever called pretty by a strange man in the streets.

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