Mummers, Poopers and Fiery Goats

Dear Noel

Christmas today is just a big retail event. Where have all the great Christmas traditions gone?

Signed, Nostalgic


Dear N

Fear not, because out there, around the world there are still some magical traditions that strike a chord against the mass production of Christmas and remind us just how strange yet wonderful we humans really are. Here are a few examples from around the globe.

In Iceland, there’s the tradition of the Yule Cat or Jólakötturinn, an extremely nasty creature who will eat your children if they haven’t done their chores. Seems to work as Icelandic homes have been rated as the cleanest in the world. They also have the highest proportion of children in therapy.

Moving south to Latvia, the tradition of “Mumming” is long held, where groups of men and women swap clothes, wear masks and wander from house to house playing music and bestowing blessings on the homes in return for food. In Latvia this occurs in an effort to encourage the sun to return during the winter solstice and is common at Christmas time. A fine tradition, but failure to provide the required food and these Mummer F#@&ers will stay camped on your front lawn for days at a time.

And here’s a great game to try on Christmas Eve – Snap Dragon. A game popular in England, Canada, and the United States for many centuries in which people tried to snatch raisins out of a bowl of burning brandy, then pop them in their mouth to put out the flames. Great game but makes it hard to open presents the next day with third degree burns on your fingers.

Not to be outdone by anyone, the good people of Scandinavia celebrate the tradition of the Yule goat, a creature that brings gifts to children and in some cities such as Gävle, in Sweden, has become a much celebrated feature of Christmas celebrations.


In 1966 one of the merry Gävle locals set the great goat on fire and since then, the tradition is whether the goat will again be torched before New Years Eve.

35 times out of the last 50 years it hasn’t made the distance to New Years. Ain’t nothin’ like a 13 metres tall fiery goat to kick off your Christmas celebration.

German people love the tradition of the Christmas pickle, a glass blown, pickle-shaped ornament that is hidden in the Christmas tree. The child who finds it receives a special gift. Like the old saying goes, you can’t polish a pickle shaped like a turd but you can glass blow one and hide it in a tree.

But the prize for the strangest tradition has to go to the Spaniards though, specifically from the region of Catalonia, with their “Pooping Log.”

The beloved log, popularly called Caga tió, is just that – a piece of wood that locals collect, hollow out, decorate with legs and a face and nurture like a member of the family in the hope that it will poop presents on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the log is put in the fireplace and is beaten with sticks.


Do this all right and the log will magically poop out yummy edible treats for the kids to eat, just like presents appearing under the Christmas tree.

Check this video out to see the full story. WARNING: this is a little long but worth seeing through if you really want to understand how this works.

So Nostalgic, take your pick. Light up your brandy bowl, polish your pickle or inflame your goat, but don’t piss off the cat and never, ever forget to nourish your pooping log.

Yours, Noel

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