Trivial Tuesday: Five Newer Holiday Traditions Featuring Animals
We are all familiar with the usual animals of Christmas such as the beasts in the stable with the Holy Family, the sheep with the shepherds, the camels with the Wise Men, and those amazing flying reindeer, but more and more animals are taking on additional roles during the holidays. Some spill over from one culture to another. Some created from the worlds of entertainment and advertising. It is all a lot of new fun for old holidays.
Back in 1989 Saturday Night Live gave the Jewish people their own version of a modern Hebrew myth in the guise of Hanukkah Harry. Harry is a thinly disguised knock-off of Santa Claus, wearing a blue suit lined with white fur, runs a sweatshop in Israel, and delivers gifts to Jewish boys and girls eight nights a year. It sounds like a pretty good deal until you realize that the gifts are things like socks and underwear. Harry is aided in his annual mission by three intrepid flying donkeys -- Moishe, Herschel, and Shlomo. These intrepid asses can be heard braying their way through the starlit nights every Hanukkah ever since.
For Christmas. Really? Really. In Sweden the old duck has become a huge tradition for Christmas Eve. Every year since 1960 the same Donald Duck special, From All Of Us To All Of You, has been airing, It is a series of animated shorts and cartoons narrated by Jiminy Cricket. According to what is becoming legend, Bengt Feldreich, narrated the action live and continues to be the voice-over to this day. He also sings "When You Wish Upon A Star" in Swedish at the end of the show. While the show is nothing ground-breaking, it is enough of a tradition that nearly half of the country watches it each year. It is not hard for anyone there to find -- it airs on the same date, time, and channel each year.
Among the legends of the Eskimos, or Inuit, is one that celebrates the winter solstice and is therefore celebrated and retold during December and has become wrapped into their Christmas traditions. The legend was beautifully told in a Christmas episode of the television show Northern Exposure. As the character of Marilyn told:
"A long time ago, the raven looked down from the sky and saw that the people of the world were living in darkness. The ball of light was kept hidden by a selfish old chief.
So the raven turned himself into a spruce needle and floated on the river where the chief's daughter came for water. She drank the spruce needle.She became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, who was the raven in disguise.
The baby cried and cried until the chief gave him the ball of light to play with. As soon as he had the light, the raven turned back into himself. The raven carried the light into the sky.
From then on, we no longer lived in darkness."
Additional Source: Native People
If you are spending the holidays in Japan you won't be talking turkey. Turkeys never took off in Japan since they don't breed there naturally, so the people never developed a taste for the bird. In addition, few Japanese homes have ovens, let alone one large enough to roast an entire turkey. However, bird is still on the menu. To the surprise of many Americans the favored meal for the holidays in Japan is a bucket from the Colonel.
That's right. The Japanese line up by the thousands to pick up a bucket or two from KFC. For the company sales skyrocket on December 23, 24, and 25. Not only that, these people order their chicken a month or more ahead of time to make sure that they will be able to have what has become the traditional Christmas dinner (eaten most often on Christmas Eve).
It all started in 1974 after an American, not able to get turkey, went to KFC instead. One employee picked up the idea and sent it to corporate. KFC ran with the idea and started advertising the Christmas concept fairly aggressively. It caught on like wildfire and they've never looked back. A single restaurant can expect to make up to 7,000 pieces of chicken in a single day during the three-day rush.
Over the past few decades the world of children has largely been taken over by a group of animals that includes a frog, a pig, a bear, a dog, a giant yellow bird, and a large number of friendly monsters. Like the rest of us, they love to celebrate Christmas. They have done a combined nine Christmas movies and specials.
Merry Christmas Everybody!
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger