Here are some quaint customs from Europe that make one glad to be an American at Christmas.
Glass Pickle – An old Victorian tradition was to hide a glass pickle in the Christmas tree the night before Christmas. Whoever found the pickle would either get a special gift or get to open the first gift. The story behind this tradition goes back to medieval times. A horrible innkeeper stuffed two kids into a pickle barrel. St. Nicholas happened to stroll by the inn later on and heard of the kids’ dilemma. He tapped the barrel with his staff and freed the kids, who ran home for Christmas dinner.
Pooping Log – This Catalan custom is still celebrated in Spain. The log is hollowed out, with legs and a face added. You must “feed” him every day beginning on December 8th. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, put him in the fireplace and beat him with sticks until he poops out small candies, fruits, and nuts. When he is through, the final object dropped is a salt herring, a garlic bulb, or an onion. Oh yeah, there is a traditional song the family can sing to encourage the process.
Christmas Witch – Italian parents, presumably concerned over the pagan nature of modern-day Santa Claus, outlawed the practice of telling children that Santa delivered their presents. Instead, the Vatican decided to tell kids that a kindly old witch, La Befana, delivers them. According to legend, the Wise Men asked La Befana to accompany them to see the infant Jesus. She refused, saying she was too busy. After missing the wondrous sight of his birth, Belfana goes from house to house each year, leaving gifts and looking for the Christ child.