Monday, December 3, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If white people in blackface doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will.

It's about the most politically incorrect imagery I am prepared to go near. Of course, I wouldn't go near it if I didn't have a good reason. And that good reason is Christmas. Strange, right? Well, not to the people in the Netherlands, where every year young, liberal, multicultural Dutch people take to the streets dressed as Zwarte Piet.

That's Black Pete for those of you who don't speak Netherlandese.

Apparently, in addition to Will Ferrell, Santa has many helpers including Pete. According to legend, his job is to entertain the children with singing and dancing while Santa goes about the business of gift-giving.

Legend also has it that like the elves, there were many, many Black Petes. And that they would travel by boat. And they would "serve" jolly old Saint Nick. I can't imagine why this fun holiday custom never caught on in America.

But if you'll pardon the pun, this quaint ritual of the Dutch pales in comparison to the Austrians -- the folks that gave us Hitler, World War 1, and state-of-the-art Anti-Semitism -- who celebrate the birth of Jesus every year by carting out Krampus, pictured below. Krampus is the tall one.

These folks know a little about discouraging misbehavior. Unlike Americans, who sing a little jingle about being naughty or nice, The Austrians know if you really want your kids to tow the line, nothing works better than an oversized, cloven-hoofed Satanic man/beast with a tongue the size of a garden snake.

Not to be outdone by their Bavarian brothers, the Germans, also known to know a little something about discipline, have Knecht Rupert or Farmhand Rupert.

He travels the countryside with a handful of switches which he will gladly thrash against the tender asses of ill-behaved Aryan kinder folk. If that doesn't straighten these miscreants out, Farmhand Rupert will hit them with his bag of ash. And no proper German child wants that.

Of course not all European Winter Solstice celebrations are as odd and dark as these. The Spanish, more specifically the Catalonians, have a charming tradition, El Caganer. I've written about The Caganer (The Shitter)  before, and I'll probably write about him again.

He made his first appearance in early recreations of the nativity scene. While the wise men and Mary and Joseph heralded the arrival of the son of God, the Caganer took this divine moment as the perfect time to drop a lincoln log. As seen here...

El Caganer shows up at the end of December as a way to remind farmers to fertilize the land. Or so the reasoning goes. Over the years, the legend of the Caganer has grown. And so has his popularity.

Now, he not only shows up at Nativity Scenes throughout the Iberian Peninsula, there are shopping malls in Spain that boast Caganers standing twenty feet in height.

Though local ordinances say, and common sense dictates, he must be kept at least 100 yards away from the food court.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Bag Of Ash, Troubadour '98.