Celebrities Defecate on Nativity Scene

History of El Caganer and other wacky holiday traditions from around the world

The holidays are quickly bearing down upon us like the Polar Express bringing carloads of customs and long-held traditions. Most Americans routinely hang colored lights and eat red-and-white striped candy this time of year. But, how do other cultures celebrate the Christmas season? Here’s a sampling of wacky traditions from around the globe.

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El Caganer

According to tradition, a small figurine is included in Nativity scenes throughout Spain, most of Italy, and southern France. “El caganer” is literally translated to “the defecator” his folklore character is represented as a farmer or peasant squatting with his pants down, caught in the act of mid-defecation.

The figure is usually tucked away far from the manger scene, and children are encouraged to find it hidden among the traditional elements of a larger Nativity scene.

Gross? Yes, definitely. Fun? Well, enough people seem to think so that an entire website is devoted to the subject, www.elcaganer.com.  Best-selling el caganer figurines include those bearing likenesses to Barak Obama, President Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel.

KFC Dinner

As a predominantly non-Christian nation, the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas en masse. But, the island country has wholeheartedly adopted America’s classic fried chicken dish for Christmas dinner. According to the BBC, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese citizens eat KFC on Christmas.

Many fast-food restaurants require customers to place their orders up to two months in advance to ensure supply and delivery for the holiday.

How did this cheap American dish become a Christmas craze overseas? Marketing. Duh. Takeshi Okawara, manager of the first KFC restaurant in Japan and longtime CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan, launched a “Kentucky for Christmas” promotion in 1974.

He modeled the festive dinner after the American Thanksgiving feast and substituted chicken for turkey. Okawara’s clever promotion became a national tradition, and deep-fried poultry served in iconic red-and-white paper boxes continues to appear on Japanese tables each December 25th.

December 28th 

On this date each year, residents of Mexico and other Latin American countries play tricks on each other and try to fool each other with outlandish tales. The custom is reminiscent of our American April Fools’ Day, when everyone and their sister is supposedly pregnant and newspaper headlines should be read and re-read for signs of a hoax.

Besides being “Mexican April Fools’ Day,” December 28th is also “El Dia de Los Santos Innocentes.” Translated to “The Day of the Holy Innocents,” this designation carries a somber note of remembrance amidst the revelry.

It refers to when King Herod ordered that every boy under the age of two be murdered shortly after Jesus was born in his attempt to kill the newborn messiah. Jesus’ parents successfully hid him and saved his life, but thousands of other baby boys perished. These young, innocent souls certainly deserve a day of special remembrance.

Beach parties 

This tradition is only classified as weird for Christmas-celebrating residents of the Northern Hemisphere. Australians wishing to celebrate Christmas (which is most of them) often have beach parties, because December 25th falls during the middle of the hot summer season Down Under.

Many other Christmas-celebrating countries, such as those located in Central and South America, associate the holiday season with swimsuits and flip-flops as well. Much of the United States also experience warm – or at least moderate – temperatures during December. Maybe our staunch devotion to snowball parties, hot chocolate, and all things cold should be listed as a “weird holiday tradition” instead.

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