Posted on Leave a comment

The Inappropriate Elf on the Shelf Photo Contest

From sexy, to scientific, to stoned and drunk, the literary, to downright evil, here are the ten best Elf on the Shelf photos I was able to find this year.  Which would you choose as the winner?

As I perused the Twitters this morning for content, I came across a funny Elf on the Shelf photo in which the Elf was taped up to the wall and surrounded by little Army action figures. Then commenced the plunge into the Dark Elf Abyss of hundreds of photos…. photo collages, groups and pins. It was never ending.

Here, I have collected my favorite 12. Now I’m asking for your help in narrowing them down to the best one. Or, simply pick your favorite and tell me why 馃檪 Personally, I think it’s a tie between the Elf Lemonade and the Elf holding a Barbie head with the sign that reads, “Your next,” because the book stack behind it was carefully picked.

Transcending
Thank you for your support!
Posted on Leave a comment

8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you’ll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren’t good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.

1. KRAMPUS

As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on the region and what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. In recent years, the tradition has spread beyond Europe, and many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.

2. J脫LAK脰TTURINN

A representation of J贸lak枚tturinn in Iceland

A representation of J贸lak枚tturinn in IcelandATLI HAR脨ARSON

J贸lak枚tturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat; in fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this was mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that J贸lak枚tturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas鈥攁nd these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores. A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It’s no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.

Transcending
Thank you for your support!

3. FRAU PERCHTA

A Bohemian depiction of Frau Perchta circa 1910

A Bohemian depiction of Frau Perchta from 1910 WIKIMEDIA // PUBLIC DOMAIN

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta’s story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn’t really a monster: she’s an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.

Getting Smarter
Thank You for Your Support!

4. BELSNICKEL

An interpreter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, portrays Belsnickel at the Landis Valley Farm Museum

An interpreter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, portrays Belsnickel at the Landis Valley Farm MuseumGSHELDON/ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.

5. HANS TRAPP

Hans Trapp is another “anti-Santa” who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed鈥攁 punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

6. P脠RE FOUETTARD

The French legend of P猫re Fouettard, whose name translates to “Father Whipper,” begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became P猫re Fouettard, St. Nicholas’ servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

Transcending
Thank you for your support!

7. THE YULE LADS

The J贸lasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish J贸lasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out … if they are good boys and girls, that is.

8. GR脻LA

All the Yule Lads answer to Gr媒la, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don’t obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Gr媒la had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn’t crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Gr媒la. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallaj枚kull volcano.

This story was published by Mental Floss, written by Miss Cellania. You can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MissCellania

A version of this list originally ran in 2013.

Posted on Leave a comment

What Henry David Thoreau Teaches us About Travel

As we prepare for limited travel and mobility restrictions, know that Thoreau understood something that many of us modern day nomads would do well to recognize: travel is a matter of perspective, not location.

鈥淚 have traveled a great deal in Concord,鈥 said Henry Thoreau, a native of鈥ait for it鈥oncord, Massachusetts.

primary-source-thoreau-civil-disobedience-c52d6a6b

In fact, Thoreau traveled far and wide for his day and age, vagabonding to Cape Cod and the vast wilderness of the Maine Woods. However, the great prophet of enlightened self-reliance claimed to have done most of his traveling in his own hometown.

Thoreau understood something that many of us modern day nomads would do well to recognize: travel is a matter of perspective, not location. With curiosity, an open mind and a broad horizon of free time, it鈥檚 possible to travel in your own backyard.

I鈥檓 writing in El Calafate, a tourist boomtown in Argentine Patagonia. I am, admittedly, a long way from home. But, just the same, at the moment I鈥檓 not really traveling.

With curiosity, an open mind and a broad horizon of free time, it鈥檚 possible to travel in your own backyard.

Neither, sadly, are many of my fellow tourists here in El Calafate. Every hour, buses segregated by wealth and nationality pull up to the viewpoint overlooking the Perito Moreno glacier.

Things-I-learned-as-a-travel-photograher

Tourists disembark 鈥 they Ooh and Ahh in their respective languages, snap a few trophy photos, nap in the bus back to the hotel and fly thousands of miles back home on airplanes that belch carbon into the sky.

Meanwhile, the famous glacier shrinks, but that鈥檚 OK 鈥 I already have my ice-climbing photo.

What Makes A Traveler?

Now, the tourist / traveler distinction has already been beaten into the ground, and I鈥檓 not so sure of its validity in the first place. But it IS clear that coming all the way to Patagonia does not make one a traveler.

How did Thoreau manage to travel in Concord when so many of my fellow tourists never leave their comfort zones?
bay-1867834_960_720-960x530

So what DOES make a traveler, I wonder? How did Thoreau manage to travel in Concord when so many of my fellow tourists here in El Calafate never leave their comfort zones?

Well, Thoreau rambled. He walked the country roads and stopped to talk to anyone he met along the way. He followed fox tracks through the snow, and wondered at their meaning. He approached the fields and homesteads of Concord with an open-ended sense of curiosity.

He looked at things, and thought about them, and tried his best to place them within the context of his broad experience. He moved slowly, and he paid attention.

Into The Hills

I remember one time, back when I worked an office job.

It was a Tuesday, and after work I just couldn鈥檛 take it any longer: with nothing but the clothes on my back I set off into the hills behind my house, trekked across the coal fields and into the valley beyond. The sun started to go down, but I just kept walking.

I came upon a small stream, which I resolved to follow until it led back to civilization. The night was dark, and there was no moon. I traveled by feel, my mind wide open, my nerves on edge. Once, I stepped on a sleeping turtle 鈥 and believe me, that was a shot of adrenaline on par with a virgin view of the Mayan Temples, the Egyptian Pyramids and even Angkor Wat.

travel-photography-career-sahara-morocco-camels-hillary-fox

 


The next day at work I couldn鈥檛 stop grinning. I had gone on a TRIP. Beyond that, I now knew what was 
Out There, over the hills, and by understanding what was Out There, I had a better appreciation for home and work 鈥 the comfortable routines to which I was able to return.Four times I came to dams, and had to scramble around them through thick bamboo grass. When I finally emerged into a village, covered in mud and cobwebs, it was past midnight.

My carbon footprint for the journey? Zero.

A Sense Of Wonder

The truth is, we travel every time we open our minds to a new possibility, every time we open our hearts to a new emotion, every time we take a new track, read a new book or just look at a rock and wonder how it got there.

There is comfort in routine and stability, but when we stop traveling we lose the sense of wonder that equates to joy, that carves new channels in our minds and makes us feel alive. So go. Go on. Go.

Take a notebook and a pen and a camera 鈥 see what you find. Then come back, and tell me the story.

Henry-David-Thoreau2

ORiginally written by Tim Patterson on https://matadornetwork.com/bnt/what-henry-david-thoreau-taught-me-about-travel/.

BNT contributing editor Tim Patterson travels with a sleeping bag and pup tent strapped to the back of his folding bicycle. His articles and travel guides have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Get Lost Magazine, Tales Of Asia and Traverse Magazine. Check out his personal site Rucksack Wanderer.