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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.



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



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

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

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.


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

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

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

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.




Logan Paul and the murky standards of YouTube’s community guidelines

Logan Paul and PewDiePie’s controversial videos reflect YouTube’s crisis on content moderation.



Logan Paul Vlogs/YouTube.

(UPDATED Jan. 12, 2 p.m.) Merely days into 2018, the Internet already found a new target for its outrage—and rightfully so.

YouTube star Logan Paul had his name all over headlines for the past few days due to a video about his trip to Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji (which he had confused with Fiji), notorious for its reputation among locals and tourists as Japan’s “suicide forest.”

In the since-deleted video, unsubtly titled We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…, Paul and his friends found a body of a suicide victim hanging from a tree just a few kilometers into Aokigahara; however, instead of respectfully turning his camera off (or even cutting the footage from the final video), Paul continued filming, even repeatedly zooming in on the corpse’s face.

“This was supposed to be a fun vlog,” he said, before making fun of the victim while wearing a cartoonish green headwarmer. The group laughed and cracked jokes beside the body.

Paul might have thought the whole ordeal was funny; after all, he amassed a following of nearly 20 million (and mostly young) subscribers for performing challenges, stunts, and pranks wrapped in his brand of rowdy shock humor, and the controversial video was supposed to be a part of his Tokyo Adventures series, where the 22-year-old vlogger obviously staged various pranks.

In the following video, Paul and his friends ran around Tokyo as they yelled at strangers and walked in the middle of the metropolis carrying a dead fish and an octopus tentacle.



In another, Paul engaged in downright cultural appropriation and disrespect (a fact he actually acknowledged during the video) by wearing traditional garbs and even going as far as washing his hands with holy water in a temple. The group was later kicked out of the temple, and their Japanese tour guide could be seen apologizing to authorities on their behalf.



These videos are still up on Paul’s channel. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old deleted the graphic video less than 24 hours after it was uploaded as outrage began pouring in from the YouTube community and the general public—but not before it was viewed 6.3 million times, even earning the 10th spot in YouTube’s trending list.

In a lengthy apology posted on his Twitter account, Paul said that he “didn’t do it for views” and that his intention was”to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” (the controversial video was not monetized).

However, his efforts to “raise awareness” by including suicide prevention hotlines and disclaimers in the video were slammed by various netizens, YouTubers, and personalities as hypocritical at best and self-praising at worst, considering how Japan seriously deals with cultural norms and its high suicide rate.

Nonetheless, Paul’s video is not the first YouTuber to face outrage on the platform for producing content that explicitly violated community guidelines.

His rival, Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known as PewDiePie, also faced similar backlash February last year for paying two Indian freelancers to dance while holding a banner that read “Death to all Jews”—a clear violation of YouTube’s guidelines on hateful content.

Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience?

Kjellberg retorted in an apology letter on Tumblr saying that the stunt was simply a joke overblown by the media and that it was only meant to show “how crazy the modern world is.” However, a report by The Wall Street Journal noted that anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery and references were present in at least nine of his videos since August 2016; neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist sites such as The Daily Stormer were already praising Kjellberg for his use of Nazi imagery, despite some of his followers defending his jokes as mere “satire.”

Both Paul and Kjellberg share almost the same brand of shock-inducing, absurdist humor masked as satire, which has become an increasingly ubiquitous part of YouTuber culture. While both of them faced consequences such as termination of partnerships and the removal of their channels from YouTube’s preferred-advertising service, it is safe to say that these controversies will only become mere blunders in their careers: Kjellberg continues to have a strong following, and Paul’s subscriber count had only increased by 600,000 in the past week.

Various users, during the time the video was still up, flagged the video as it obviously violated YouTube’s community standards and guidelines on violent and graphic content, which explicitly says “it’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.”

A spokesperson from YouTube confirmed the violation but did not comment on whether Paul’s channel was given a strike or if they have manually reviewed the video (as of press time, Paul’s channel was already given one); other users who reposted Paul’s video in their own channels, however, were given strikes—and according to YouTube’s policies, channels that receive three strikes within three months are removed from the platform.

While Paul has subsequently apologized again in a video, YouTube has seemingly addressed the backlash through a Twitter thread last Jan. 10, saying that they were taking steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.” They did not, however, disclose the specific steps they would take.

However, it is now necessary to ask why the Internet’s leading video sharing platform allows content that violates its own guidelines to stay and proliferate within the platform. Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience? On both questions, perhaps not—and, if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.

It is important to note that while the video was repeatedly reported to YouTube, it was Paul who took it down eventually—not moderators. Furthermore, according to a member of YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, the video was manually reviewed and moderators decided that it should remain on the platform—even without an age restriction.

Even Kjellberg’s video remained accessible during the height of the controversy according to a report by Time Magazine, despite initial reports that the video was already removed (it is now unavailable).

These controversies highlight YouTube’s long-running crisis on content moderation, on how it moderates and censors the content of its top creators (if YouTube actually does), and on how it plays favorites and double standards, and how the platform tacitly encourages the production of provocative, offensive, or extremist content that would surely garner millions of views—and these views would inevitably translate to advertising revenue.

… if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.

For one, Kjellberg’s Nazi references staying under the radar for so long only goes to show how YouTube is willing to bend its own rules for creators that get millions of views and make profit for the platform. A piece from The New York Times puts it plainly: “The YouTube platform plainly incentivizes such attention-grabbing behavior.”

The piece also considered how YouTube “is considerably and deliberately less hands-on with its talents” and YouTube might be more than willing to use this to wash their hands from any responsibility; however, Paul is a high-profile collaborator. He is set to star in a film produced by YouTube’s premium tier, YouTube Red, much like how Kjellberg starred in the tier’s Scare PewDiePie series before its second season was cancelled following Kjellberg’s controversy.

While YouTube has put its collaborations with Paul on hold, his Tokyo Adventures videos are still reportedly making as much as 90,000 dollars from views, according to analysts, in stark contrast to how YouTube responded to Kjellberg and other creators—and it all comes down to advertisers.

Last year, advertisers threatened to boycott YouTube as they discovered that their advertisements ran in videos “promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism,” according to a report from TechCrunch. YouTube began demonetizing videos—including innocent channels—in what became known as the first “adpocalypse,” and these continued following the discovery of inappropriate content running in YouTube’s standalone children-oriented app, YouTube Kids, by taking advantage of the platform’s algorithms.

In order to combat the loopholes in its algorithms, YouTube announced just last month that it would hire 10,000 human moderators to police content, punish creators that violate guidelines, and make sure that advertisements run alongside content that advertisers deem appropriate for their brands.

The platform now seemed ready to come clean—but Paul’s controversial video showed that YouTube is still not ready after all.

Perhaps, unlike neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, advertisers do not care about Paul’s insensitive mistake on making fun of suicide, he even allegedly monetized his own apology video (the controversial video was not), and there are no threats from advertisers to boycott the platform.

Ironically (or perhaps not), even Kjellberg called Paul a “jackass” and “a straight-up sociopath,” with the video “[encompassing] everything wrong with YouTube, the clickbait, the sensationalism”—and he is not entirely wrong: If anything, Kjellberg only echoed what other YouTubers have been saying all along (it is also important to note that Kjellberg does not want Paul’s channel to be taken down.

If YouTube cannot violate the editorial independence of its content creators, then this leaves the public to pressure YouTube to revise or clarify its community guidelines, uphold policies and strengthen their enforcement, and give more transparency in handling reports and complaints.

However, its complex ecosystem of algorithms, moderators, and corporate interests—and how they exactly work to enforce community guidelines despite their inherent contradictions—is still up for debate.

Nonetheless, the call still stands: YouTube needs to let go of its profitability for once and own up for its complicity in the mistakes of its creators—and, of course, punish them accordingly.

by Antoine Kyle Balo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect YouTube’s responses and actions regarding the controversy.



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Finals week is dark and full of terrors — and here’s how to survive it

Fight your way through the Long Night (or long, sleepless nights) with these five useful tips.



At one point, we were a stressed Samwell Tarly — maybe even now. Photo courtesy of HBO.

Finals week has finally arrived in UST, a.k.a. ’tis the season for an awful lot of stress, all-nighters, and mugs and mugs of coffee.

With exams, theses, reports, and plates charging from all directions, it’s even becoming harder to tell if the students roaming the campus are still students or if they have already turned into soulless White Walkers.

The finals week is dark and full of terrors, but if you want to survive it, here are some tips on how you can combat it head-on.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Lord Baelish once said: “Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder” —and to avoid falling from that ladder, you have to armor up as you charge down the finals battlefield. Prepare all your notes, your pens and highlighters, and most importantly, prepare yourself in every possible aspect — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Drink coffee — but not too much

Coffee is almost every student’s best friend, but if the tragedy of the Red Wedding ever taught us anything, drinking too much can be deadly, whether it be wine or coffee. Yes, sleepless nights pay off most of the time but continued sleep deprivation negatively affects the health. If you’re not a fan of coffee, tea and chocolate can help you stay up late.

Discover more effective studying techniques

Studying is not just printing PowerPoint slides or rereading your notes: Techniques such as highlighting, rewriting notes, using flashcards can prove effective. Don’t be like Jon Snow who knows nothing; try to discover the best techniques that work best for you.

Have a break in-between your study sessions

Twenty minutes is adequate; it’s plenty enough time to walk around or maybe do some stretching. Also, having breaks in between can prevent sleepiness, just don’t make the break long like a Game of Thrones’s season break.

And of course, pray

Whether it be to God — or to the old gods and the new — seeking help and guidance from forces above can help lessen the burden of stress pushing down; and of course, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little extra help.

Remember, the semester finale is approaching and there are only few days left to save your grades. The finals week may be dark and full of terrors, but you can survive (and defeat) the Long Night by putting on your extra, staying positive and hoping for the best — after all, Paskuhan is coming!

by Danielle Arcegono



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Why ‘Respeto’ earned respect

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, Respeto captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it.



Screengrab from YouTube.

Respeto begins with a crowd cheering in a dim lit place, probably a warehouse somewhere in Pandacan, Manila. Two rappers are introduced and later on engage themselves into a rap battle by exchanging words, rhyme, and rhythm and ends with the rapper with the loudest cheer from the audience, winning the competition.

This establishes the highlight of the film: The art of words, rhyme, and rhythm.

Bagging four major awards in this year’s Cinemalaya, namely Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Dido de la Paz, it is not a surprise that Respeto, directed by Treb Monteras II, turns out to be one of the most outstanding Filipino films that have been produced today.

Hendrix, played by Abra, is an aspiring rapper but due to his social status, he was forced to work as a drug mule under his sister’s drug pusher boyfriend, Mando (Brian Arda), who was up to no good. But despite the circumstances, Hendrix did not lose hope on pursuing to become a rapper and was truly supported by his friends, Betchai (Chai Fonacier) and Payaso (Yves Bagadion).

From time to time, Hendrix together with his friends would go to a rap battle gathering named Berso, where aspiring rappers come together to battle with impromptu verses. Short on cash, Hendrix uses Mando’s drug money to join the so-called gathering. Mando eventually finds out and tells Hendrix to pay him back or else he can’t come home. Desperate, Hendrix asked his friends to help him steal from Doc (Dido de la Paz), an old man who lives at the corner street who also owns a second-hand bookstore, and unfortunately, he and his friends were caught in the act. Unsuccessful with their plan, Hendrix and his friends were asked to repair everything they broke in Doc’s bookstore in exchange they would be free of charge. As the story unfolds, Hendrix and Doc’s relationship develops as Hendrix learns about Doc’s history as a writer and as a Martial Law victim.

One of the things that make this film enjoyable to watch is the humor that the characters show despite its heavy theme. There were scenes where Hendrix and his friends share a conversation about their neighbors one by one being killed because their involvement in the war on drugs, and in those conversations Payaso and Betchai would comment in a way how Filipinos would react despite the seriousness of the subject: Always with wittiness and pessimism. What makes it more likable is that how the characters deliver their lines naturally. Also, given it is a film about hip-hop and rap,what made it more enjoyable are the impromptu rap verses that were written by the cast themselves and the musical score by Jay Durias that made it stand out, as it sets the mood of the film which captivates the local hip-hop scene in the Philippines.

Another reason that makes Respeto as one of the best films produced is its social commentary on present issues in the country, specifically the war on drugs. As told, Hendrix and his friends talk about their neighbors who were killed because of the current administration’s Oplan Tokhang. It also reflected how the war on drugs affected the lives of people in the masses, as for Hendrix, his sister, and her boyfriend, they became drug mules or pushers because of poverty.

What made the film compelling is the use of elements of the old and the new. Focusing on the hip-hop scene in the Philippines and at the same time giving light on local poets and poetry, Monteras showed a different perspective on Philippine hip-hop rap battles by making it in parallel with poetry and the traditional Balagtasan. Also, the relationship between the old and the new was portrayed by Doc and Hendrix, both the embodiment of the traditional and modern. Though at extremes, Doc and Hendrix established a relationship as they learn from each other; Hendrix begins to be true to himself when it comes to his words in rapping as he spent time cleaning up Doc’s bookstore as Doc learns to open his closed doors, despite his past, to Hendrix and his friends. In the context of social issues, the film also showed the current and past issues of the country by paralleling the Martial Law period with the events under the current administration.

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, it truly captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it, as portrayed by Hendrix and his friends.

Respeto reminds us of the reality there is for those people in the masses, especially the youth, that there are a lot of them who are undeniably talented but despite their situation, are not able to reach their goals and dreams. They are affected by the actions of society and become products of these problems as embodied by Hendrix and his friends. Not only it concerns the effect of these social issues on the youth, but also how it affected society as a whole. It showed how these people are shaped by circumstances in the society we live in, and how they would respond to it. As for Hendrix, he was affected by the war on drugs that mirrors Doc’s experience during the Martial Law regime which greatly affected him as a person.

Commenting and reflecting Philippine society and culture, I would give Respeto a 9/10 as I consider it as one of the best Filipino films made as it leaves you heavy-hearted, speechless and at the same time enlightened by its message.

by Hannah Arcenal



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