Happy Christmas – our gift: Episode 9 of The Condition looks to the U.S. and Europe for how to celebrate Christmas this year. During the episode, (available from iTunes for free here: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-condition/id400138220 ) we learned about the Krampus, an evil sidekick of Santa who deals with all the kids who have been naughty in Germany and Austria.
My favourite two however, were the Santas of Iceland and the Netherlands respectively. Here’s what they’re all about:
Iceland – The 13 retarded Santas of Icelandic Christmas
This is perhaps the strangest traditional celebration of Christmas I have ever encountered. It is rooted in Icelandic folklore, a land of fire, of ice and of, it seems, intense boredom.
On December 12th through to December 24th, every day one of the thirteen will arrive at your house. They are basically ragamuffins with nothing but time on their hands, and have maybe had bad childhoods, perhaps they were neglected, and now all the 13 Icelandic Santas have turned to verious forms of petty crime. They actually spring from the womb of a giant ogress – eww gross mental image – and live in a mountain cave, so I guess that works too in Iceland.
Here’s the deal, I’m just going to list them in order, and I’ll leave it to you to make up your mind on them:
1 – December 12th – Stekkjastaur or Gimpy/Stiff Legs – already a great start – he hobbles about, pissing off the sheep and trying to suck out their precious milk.
2 – December 13th – Giljagaur or Gilly Oaf – this guy hides out until he sees an opening to the barn, runs in a steals all the cow’s milk. So now, no cow milk, no sheep milk, what are we going to do about the cheese?
3 – December 14th – Stúfur or Stubby/Itty Bitty – an angry dwarf who steals pans to eat the burnt food on the inside.
4 – December 15th – Þvörusleikir or Ladle Licker/Spoon Licker – Steals the spoons to lick. Not surprisingly, this one is really thin, he might even have scurvy.
5 – December 16th – Pottasleikir or Pot Licker – Similar to Itty Bitty, he prefers to steal then lick the pans.
6 – December 17th – Askasleikir or Bowl Licker – Probably roams around in a gang of kitchen ware thieves with the previous 3, but again, steals bowls; licks them.
7 – December 18th – Hurðaskellir or Door Slammer – This guy is just a pain in the arse. He goes around banging and slamming doors all over the place. Just a nuisance as he likes to work at night.
8 – December 19th – Skyrgámur or Skyr Gobbler – Skyr (pronounced ‘skeer’) is a yogurt that is not unlike Greek yogurt. This guys likes it, but instead of getting a job and buying from the supermarket like everyone else, he knicks it.
9 – December 20th – Bjúgnakrækir or Sausage Swiper/Sausage Pilferer – Goes around stealing peoples sausages. He especially likes smoked or cured sausages.
10 – December 21st – Gluggagægir or Peeper/Peeping Tom – The dirty little Santa of Icelandic Christmas (the only one with a restraining order and a registered sex offender) comes along on the 21st to watch you getting changed.
11 – December 22nd – Gáttaþefur or Door sniffer – Not as annoying as number 7, he just has a really big nose which is put into good use detecting the presence of a type of Icelandic bread called Laufabrauð.
12 – December 23rd – Ketkrókur or Meat Hook – Sounds like the Santa from a horror movie, this guy just picks up steaks and blocks of meat on his meat hook and runs off into the night with them.
13 – December 24th – Kertasníkir or Candle Beggar – Follows children, not in a dodgy way like number 10, he is just after their precious light, and often steals their candles.
So there we have the 13 Santas who roam about Iceland. It’s little wonder why Reykjavik isn’t much of a winter holiday destination.
But given that Iceland was uninhabited until colonised by the Vikings around the 9th Century, it’s no surprise that Santa (or as it seems, all 13 Santas) are angry and dangerous.
The Netherlands – Santa the slave owner?
So the Dutch are famous for their laid back, friendly attitude, being tall, tulips, great pot and now, racist Santa (or is it just equality in the work place Santa?).
How it all happens: The Netherlands actually have two special days. Christmas on the 25th, and St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Sometime during November, Sinterklaas comes to town on a steam boat that inexplicably travels, not from Greenland, but from Spain, offering gifts to the children. Every year a different town along the coast is chosen for Sinterklaas to dock at.
This is by far the least unusual aspect of the spectacle. Now everyone knows, Santa couldn’t possibly do it all by himself. Especially when you’ve got to pilot a steam boat from Spain. He needs his helpers. Now here’s the thing about his helpers. They’re ALL black, and all called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
It’s just that, when ALL the ‘helpers’ are black that, well, come on, they’re slaves. Dutch Santa keeps slaves!So long as they have equal rights in the work place, 4 weeks paid leave each year and health benefits, then I guess it’s okay with me.
What’s more, the old songs remark how naughty children where put in a bag and carried back to Spain, when all the nice children had received their candy.
Here is this year’s video, watch the first 30 seconds then skip to about the 4th minute to see what I mean: