Long before you or I were born Christmas spread its bejeweled wings and took flight from the fair shores of North America to pagan lands like the United Kingdom, the mysterious Japan, and even Darkest Africa. In these strange countries the Christmas familiar to us took on new and sometimes confusing forms. Today we tour the strange holiday traditions of the rest of the world, reminding us all once again just how much better America is than them.
The red-maned breeds of cannibalistic hunchbacks that hold sway over the rolling hillocks of Ireland celebrate a Christmas in tune with their animalistic intellects. On Christmas Eve in each village a prisoner or unsavory fellow is placed upon an oak sled and shoved down a steep hill. The villagers erect a crude garrote of hog's gut and horse hair that catches the prisoner - if he is fortunate - in the neck and instantly decapitates him. The corpse is quickly stripped and butchered, salted in curing brine, and left to dry in a smoke hut overnight. Legend tells that at the witching hour a Heart's Ghoul (a mythological creature unique to Ireland, a sort of anthropomorphic potato that murders children) will eat the salted meat hung in the smokehouses. If the Heart's Ghoul is satisfied with the offering it will reward the families with toys and strange electronic devices brought from the Far East. If it is displeased it will raze the village with its fiery breath and slit the children's throats and throw their corpses into a peat bog.
The misty moors of England are populated on Christmas Eve by phosphorescent "Gift Ghosts" that transform the black lungs of lovable urchins into gifts for those of greater means. Christmas Eve, translated literally in the impenetrable version of American that the English speak, is "prize lungs eve". The night before Christmas tens of thousands of families take to the cobbled streets of London in their dark hansom carriages and by the guttering light of gas lamps they eviscerate paupers, vagabonds, and women of ill-repute for their magical lungs. These are then placed beneath the "wishful tree" and by dawn the gift ghosts have wailed and frolicked their way into the homes to transform the lungs into presents that English children desire like oranges in striped socks and wool jackets with little shields embroidered on the chest.
The apostate nation of France has celebrated the birth of Christ since the late 1980s. They believe that by making a wish as they ejaculate onto the face of an image of Christ they will be granted that wish if they have hated America enough throughout the preceding year. This wish will be fulfilled by a cloud like creature with a smiling face named "Old Periwinkle" that emerges from the Eiffel Tower on Christmas Day and searches the cities and countryside for those who have opposed the creeping hegemony and the amoral capitalist machinations of the United States. If any Americans are found hiding within France on Christmas Day by Old Periwinkle they will be transformed into rail thin naked seven year old boys. These so-called "Goblins of the West" will be chastised and then converted into Frenchmen by incorporating them into abstract installation art.
Italian men and women celebrate Christmas very differently. The women dress all in black and weep hysterically at the feet of a statue of Christ until they pass out from exhaustion. The men spend Christmas Eve chasing female tourists on their mopeds and attempting to seduce them with a method that most legal systems would consider sexual assault. Following this they write an angry letter to the producers of "The Sopranos" in which they skewer them for their inaccurate portrayal of Italians. Then they float around in a pool, scream at their therapist who constantly rebuffs their sexual advances, pass out from stress while driving, get a blowjob from a stripper, and then have their friend kill one of their other friends.
Christmas is identical in theory to celebrations in the United States, but is conducted on a rigid 17-minute timescale. During this "Window of Christmas" the German carol "Leistungsfähige Nacht" is sung in a monotone, gifts are exchanged through bank teller windows, and workers in identical gray coveralls become lost in an impossibly vast bureaucratic maze while trying to redeem their state unemployment dispensation red card. At the end of the 17-minute "Window of Christmas" an air raid siren sounds throughout Germany and the Germans descend to their subterranean grottos to build precision-engineered luxury sedans with their latent psychic powers.
The venerable Russian Orthodox Church, which is often considered by foreigners to be extremely humorless and monolithic, "lightens up" considerably in the spirit of the holiday season. To celebrate the birth of Christ, the usual flogging and bloodletting associated with Russian Orthodoxy is put aside for the day, and children who have been awarded a sufficient number of "Government Behavioral Stamps" are allowed to queue up for mild and jaunty beatings. These beatings are administered by none other than the wild flesh-eating witch Baba Yaga herself. She sees through the ruse of any child who attempts to cheat the system with the help of her magical owl Petrov and subsequently drags the child into her legged hut and cooks them into a traditional Russian "human kidney cake".
Egypt is a predominantly Muslim nation, but Egyptians don't let their year round faith get in the way of a little holiday cheer. Egyptians believe that the spirit of giving is resurrected every year from the pyramid of Giza, when Pharaoh Ahkamahknahken awakes. Known from hieroglyphics as the "Jolly Old God-King and Son of Ra", the portly Ahkamahknahken climbs to the top of the tallest pyramid and vomits out a cloud of locusts that fly around the country devouring crops. At the end of Christmas Eve these locusts funnel into the Sphinx and overnight transform into millions of foil-wrapped chocolate coins. At dawn children gather beneath the Sphinx and await the yearly moment when the proud idol's mouth opens and streams of scalding hot molten chocolate and empty foil wrappers spray out. Dozens are killed every year, but they die happy knowing that they go on to have their Christmas Cheer weighed favorably by Anubis in the afterlife.
This year, much like last year, Iraqis are expected to show their enthusiasm for the Christmas season by killing policemen. Smart policemen will pre-celebrate Christmas by collaborating with other Iraqis to kill American soldiers. American soldiers in Iraq will celebrate Christmas by welding filing cabinets to the sides of their Humvees. British soldiers will celebrate their own particular brand of Christmas abroad by donning pith helmets and sitting on deck chairs while Sikhs in white uniforms bring them honeyed tea, biscuits, and fresh dates. Following tea they will play a brief match of cricket and then flee casually from a mortar attack joking dryly about the unpleasant precipitation in Tikrit.
Few who venture into Darkest Africa return to tell the tale of this sinister continent's Christmas celebrations. By piecing together reports from the wild-eyed madmen fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to escape with their lives we can conjecture about how the Christmas Spirit endures even in the most hopeless corners of the globe. It is believed that millions of AIDS infected children toil day and night in diamond mines throughout Africa under threat of dismemberment and death. The diamonds they collect are fed to a city-sized machine on vast tank treads that crush entire villages beneath them. It is known as "Santa" and prowls the barren wastes searching for the two raw materials that fuel its mile-high smoke spewing chimneys; diamonds and human blood. Africans generally celebrate the Birth of Christ by dying from exhaustion, complications from AIDS, starvation, or machetes.
It is believed in India that if you fully embrace the Christmas Spirit your skin will lighten and you will move upwards in the rigid caste system. During the hours after nightfall on Christmas Eve all Indians attempting to celebrate Christmas must conduct their conversations in the form of elaborate song and dance numbers. Come dawn the revelers head to the Ganges where the corpses choking the river are dredged out, dressed as Santa Claus, set on fire, and then returned to the river. Those truly devoted to the six-armed blue-skinned Father Christma will ritualistically burn their wives as well, lightening their skins by five shades and instantly granting them a curry shop in England or a doctorate in medicine in the United States.
Pakistan celebrates Christmas exactly like India; only they do so out of mocking spite for India rather than any true observance of the holiday. Celebrations usually culminate in deadly skirmishes throughout the Kashmir region.
Accurate accounts of Japanese Christmas customs are difficult to come by, because westerners find them completely dazzling and incomprehensible. Cultural relativists like to pretend that there is some sort of rhyme or reason to their festivities, but many anthropologists have speculated that the nation is just a bunch of shrieking spastics obsessed with flashing colors and things arbitrarily deemed "cute". As of late Japan has westernized its traditions somewhat and all good children are said to receive presents from "DOCTOR GIFTU," a giant black-faced caricature of Dean Martin with an afro and a cape. For the past three years Sony has sponsored a nationally televised Christmas celebration emceed by a robotic version of DOCTOR GIFTU. Dozens of A-list Hollywood celebrities are paid obscene amounts of money to participate in a lighthearted and festive variety show, at the end of which one of them is transformed into a calico kitten by DOCTOR GIFTU's eye beams to the squealing delight of a throng of teenage girls wearing pink bear suits.
Relaxing laws in China have resulted in a cautious but paradoxically enthusiastic embrace of American Christmas traditions. In China, Christmas is known as "Resource Allocation Day" in which prizes are given to most and brutal police beatings are given to some. The majority of children receive identical red jumpsuits and a pocket book of Christmas themed party literature. A lucky few determined to display a particular aptitude in revolutionary studies will receive their very own Tibetan national to oppress. Christmas celebrations in urban centers are often entertained by "The Yule Tide"; China's name for a line of riot suppression police who launch "Cheer Canisters" into the crowds that release a blinding yellow smoke called "frankincense" that opens burning sores on the lungs.
Australians observe quaint Christmas rituals which they hope foreigners will see as adorable but which were built upon the blood, tears, and toil of the Aboriginal people. Australia hopelessly attempts to export these traditions to America, a culture which has long since lost interest in their pitiful demi-continent, aside from occasionally plundering and then discarding a comical Australian version of Stepin Fetchit. Christmas Eves in Australia are spent going from house to house and naming menu items from a variety of failed Australia-themed US eating establishments. Holiday favorites include Shrimp On the Barbie Platter with a Billabong of Zesty Croc'n Ranch Dip, Crikey Good Bloomin' Onion, and Wallaburgers.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Christmas in foreign lands. I know I did!
Hows about you, me, and five uncomfortable minutes in my basement apartment next to the dusty Christmas tree that's still up from my last visit with my estranged children.
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This ain't your daddy's globe...! .... or is it?!
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