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While promising to slit you kid’s throat open if he does that just one more time may sound like the ultimate Christmas greeting, even if you are not Basque, everyone knows that if you truly want to hit terrorism threat level red for the holidays, you need to head north where the long cold winter nights lend themselves well to pondering on what best will strike life-scaring fear in the little ones’ hearts. And you can’t get much further north than Iceland. Nor can you get much more bloody than their Christmas holiday tale.
[Quick note to Americans: You can in fact get much further north than Iceland, but since most of you assume that has to be located somewhere in Canada, it’s not really a point we need to debate right now.]
With average winter daytime temperatures just below freezing, and being the country to not only be the first but only nation to crown a lesbian as it’s head of state, you can assume when it comes to winter solstice fairy tales the frozen folk of The Land of Fire and Ice would drape that mantle around the neck of a real cold-stone bitch. (You’d think with several active volcanoes, fiery pits of lava would play a role in that tale too, but unfortunately the Basque exodus from their homeland has never included the country on its top ten list of places for Basque people to flee too.)
Gryla is a wicked woman, with horrifying features such as hooves, horns, big ears, a wrinkled face, a prominent nose – not to mention a tail – who plays the starring role in Icelandic folklore associated with the Christmas season. Her overall ugly appearance is made even scarier thanks to her unappealing black, shambolic hair. (Blonde rules in Iceland – which might explain that lesbian PM thingy, as well as why dumb blonde jokes never really took off there – so you can’t really have a scary creature to use in terrifying your rug rats unless he or she has black hair. Shambolic or not.)
[Quick note to non-native English speakers as well as the rest of you who have still not mastered that language: Shambolic. Is that not a cool word? It means chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged. You really need to add it to your vocabulary. If you need an example used in a sentence, I’ll give a tip of my hat to Bill O’Reilly: Please do not be shambolic when writing to The Factor. You know Bill used to be a public high school teacher in Florida. Where the high school drop out rate is 31%, down from 46% when the future of Florida’s school children was in Bill’s hands. ]
Of course even in Iceland ugly is as ugly does (as it is on The Factor come to think about it) and the thrice married ogress – Gryla, not the dyke politician – has a few pretty ugly habits. Besides a fondness for divorce. She is a chain smoker, (not really, but I wanted to make sure Christian was with us and ready to jump on the anti-Gryla bandwagon), has 13 kids (so think Octo-Mom, but with looser morals), and lives in a cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields with her fiendish cat (an oxymoron if there ever was one). But it is her version of the you better be good you better not cry song that earns her a spot in the Christmas villain Hall of Fame. Gryla is a true epicurean, at least when it comes to food, and her favorite dish is soup made from humans. Preferably with nasty little children as its main ingredient. Both because they taste so much better and that her doctor told Gryla she needed to avoid sweets.
Every Christmas Gryla sets off for her annual tour of the country, kidnapping all of the bad children and throwing them in her burlap sack. Yup, Santa’s got a brand new bag and in Iceland it is filled with kiddies who are not long for the world. The old bitch has an incredible sense of hearing that she uses to track down the bad kids, which is a bonus threat ‘cuz that keeps the little darlings from misbehaving, and keeps them quiet to boot. (Her sense of smell: not so much. Which all things considered works well for her since the smell of children boiling is not the olfactory delight you’d think it would be. Ooops. TMI?) The rug rats she collects on her outing get taken back to her cave where they are boiled alive before being consumed by Gryla and her brood. And you know that damn cat is right there in line waiting for her pound of human flesh too.
[Quick note to Food Channel Fans: Did you know it takes 2.3 children under the age of 6 to produce 1 pound of cooked human meat? I mean the usable, premium-grade kind. At that age there is still a lot of baby fat, not to mention gristle and soft bone material that all needs to be culled from the final product before it’s usable for steaks, roasts, or mince meat pies. Huh. Well, what did you think those pies were made of then?]
Gryla’s tale has numerous versions, as most old stories do. Some give her 15 tails, with each holding a hundred sacks with 20 brats in each bag. Many go into further detail about her own children, the Yule Lads, who, for the most part, take after moms. They too had a fondness for child snatching, but rather they descend on Iceland’s young ones in mass, they head off one by one over the 13 days before Christmas – hors d’oeuvres are popular even in Iceland. Each lad has his own name, which identifies his mischievous character, including Bjúgnakrækir, or Sausage-Pilferer, Gluggagægir, aka Peeping-Tom, Gáttathefur, or the Sniffer (gross!), the fearsome Kjötkrókur, better known as Meat-hook, and Stúfur, or Shorty who like Shorties all over the world undoubtedly over-compensates for his short comings by being an especially vindictive little bastard.
Living in a land that has nothing to recommend it other than year-round bone-numbing coldness tends to make everyone a bit grumpy, and parents, by Christmas time, had devolved to a point where for weeks on end they scare the beejesus out of their little ones with tales of Gryla, the Yule Lads, and that fucking cat. The country’s psyche had been taking such a terrible blow from this tradition that in the mid 1700s the government (that’d be in its pre-lesbian days) passed a law making it illegal for Icelanders to use Gryla and her gang to terrorize their offspring. But just as Jack Black’s Hollywood career has an unfathomable life of its own, the tale of Gryla persists, though they have tried to clean up her rep in an effort to keep parental units out of jail.
Today, Gryla still remains an ugly old hag, but she no longer indulges in kiddie stew (yeah, right.) The Yule Lads are now dressed up as elves in red and white and take the more traditional holiday role of leaving gifts in childrens’ shoes. Now the threat to naughty children has been downgraded to terrorist threat level yellow: misbehavior is rewarded with an old potato left in their shoes instead of money and cool gifts (though in Ireland that same moldy potato counts as a goodie.)
This brings to an end my salute to the 12 Gays of Christmas which has covered the many warm holiday tales from across the lands, and which I hope has helped to make your season brighter. Or at least has given you some new ammo to use to keep your nieces and nephews in line during the holidays. Just wait until you see what I have in store for thee Easter Bunny in a few months. For now then, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good nightmare.
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I probably should be linking to the original source, but I’m lazy. Take this quiz to discover how Thai you are. (or did I already post this? I’m also too lazy to check.)
If you are reading this then the Mayans were wrong and we aren’t dead yet. So what will do you in? Globally, lower back pain is responsible for more deaths than traffic accidents. Lung cancer claims the #4 spot for those living, or I guess dieing, in North America, but in S.E. Asia it’s not the cigarettes but falls that will kill off more people. Even outisde of Pattaya. A fascinating if somewhat morbid chart showing what you are most likely to die from based on where you live; this is what Bill Gates does with his billions.
For the drag queen or future fem boy on your holiday shopping list: Mattel has announced the release of Drag Queen Barbie. No, really. Um, I think we just won our fight for equality. At least for those without genitalia. Though I guess that should really be Ken and not the fish version of the doll.
Half naked male celebrities celebrating the holidays seems to be a trend this Christmas. Nice that they’ve decided to do their part in making our holidays bright. Olympian diver Tom Daley has now added to this growing body of work. And you’ll note in the picture linked to it is not his head that Tom is holding that mistletoe over.
Because I know how crazy Christian is about pussy: This week’s addition to Places In Thailand Jabba Has Never Heard Of.
Warm memories of Christmases past – our family photo albums are filled with scenes of the holidays we’ve enjoyed. Even if you were busy killing off 5 million Jews that year.
The good news is that besides being smarter, better looking, and having a more refined sense of taste, gay people earn more and owe less. The bad news is the financial planning industry has just figured this out. Consider yourself warned. When American Express calls, take a page from Nancy Reagan’s book and Just Say No.
You’d think a restaurant whose customers claim is really crappy wouldn’t last long, but this Taiwanese restaurant chain is not only popular but it’s expanding into China and other parts of Asia.
My Xmas gift to you: A link to the incredibly hot Asian male bodies photographed by Gary Xu. So whatdidya get me?
40% of gay men have no problem fitting into a condom. Which means they are below average in more ways than one. But according to a new study, size queens are not getting to practice safe sex because one size does not fit all.
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You’d think that the Catalan tradition of beating the crap out of a pooing log would be a hard holiday celebration to top. But not far away the locals’ Christmas tale involves suicide and being burned to death. Yup, that’s what happens when you mingle Spanish and French blood – a fiery disposition and way too much melodrama, even if it is the holiday season. But every culture needs its own version of the spirit of the winter solstice, and if you are Basque, a fat guy dressed in red shimmying down chimneys is just too festive and ain’t gonna cut it. ‘Cuz where’s the doom and gloom in that?
In the Basque Country they tell the tale of Olentzero, a Jentilak (giants in Basque mythology) who lived with his tribe in the forests of the Pyrenees mountains. One day his peeps discovered a glowing cloud in the sky. They feared that this celestial phenomenon was the divine sign of the arrival of the imminent birth of Jesus. While the rest of the world took this sign as a positive one, began rejoicing, or packing their camels to head to the little town of Bethlehem, the Jentilak saw it as a ominous one, possibly correctly foretelling the eventual rise of a Catholic Pope and the hundreds of years of war, torture, and death that passed as the manner in which one celebrated religion in those days. But unless you are Mayan, you don’t make predictions of the end of humanity as you know it lightly. So they turned to a blind grumpy old man for confirmation. That was Olentzero, and he confirmed their wildest fears. “Yes, this is the sign, Jesus will be born soon,” he told them.
If they’d checked with someone younger who had better eyesight, the tale would end there. But as you know if you have ever had to listen to an octogenarian ramble on and on and on and on, old people love to hear themselves talk. And Olentzero went one better, since his vision was lacking he shared his visions instead. And like with those grumpy old men who routinely post on the Gay Thailand forums, nothing he had to say was productive or positive.
Now the similarities between Olentzero and Pattaya expats don’t end there. He too was a thick glutton who could eat huge quantities of food which he washed down with strong liquor. No surprise, he was frequently drunk and almost always irritable. And like the board pundits, he had a fondness for predicting the demise of established institutions. So in the spirit of the winter solstice (because Christmas was still a holiday of the future, or at least until the no-really-I’ve-never-been-with-anyone-else Mary dropped her little brat) Olentzero foretold vast changes in the world and the end of the Jentilak’s way of life, blaming it all on an under-aged boy born in a small rural village far, far away.
Of course Olentzero too believed his own story, as depressing as it was, because like board pundits once he said it he assumed it was a fact and had to defend his assertion regardless of the consequences. In those days they did not have balconies. But they did have cliffs. So Olentzero did what despondent, drunk, old men too often do and decided to end it all with one mighty flying leap from the heights. But being not only old but almost blind to boot, Olentzero couldn’t get up to the cliff himself, so he asked a band of his fellow not-merry men for an assist. Unfortunately, they too had been downing copious amounts of 99 baht beer and ended up tripping head over heels and falling to their own deaths instead.
Olentzero was the sole survivor. And boy was he pissed that the damn losers he’d thought were friends had stole his limelight. So he hiked to the villages in the valley below and used his sickle to brutally cut the throat of the people who were enjoying their 24th of December holiday. Because even centuries ago, like today, grumpy old men dissatisfied with their fate in life absolutely hate anyone who is not as miserable as they are.
Olentzero’s tale isn’t exactly the cheery Christmas feel-good story that other cultures went with, so the Basque people decided a rewrite was in order, much in the same way as the studio just recut Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher movie for its Christmas Day release because of an equally not feel-good recent current event. But just like Tom can not help himself for being gay, the Basques can’t keep themselves from being Basque, so the newer version of the story of Olentzero isn’t much better. Nor do I expect Jack Reacher to be much improved since they really fucked up in casting Tom in that part to begin with. I hope Lee Child enjoys the money they paid him because he just doomed a literary franchise.
Olentzero, The Sequel starts off nice enough – the story’s details I won’t bother you with because they are as unimportant as Tom’s sham marriage to Katie was, though I will mention that Olentzero’s tale too miraculously produced a baby girl. And who said fairy tales can’t come true? The good part is the ending, and the rewrite ends with Olentzero burning to death in a cottage fire. Which at least isn’t quite as brutal as his previous Texas Chainsaw Massacre tale ending. But it did leave the Basque people stumped, having to choose between sliced opened throats and death by fire, so they adopted both for their current holiday festivities.
As you’ve probably figured out if you’ve been reading this year’s 12 Gays of Christmas posts, the one thing every culture can agree on when it comes to Christmas stories, is that there has to be an element to terrorize your children with. The Basques tell theirs that if they don’t behave Olentzero will come to cut their throats; often they drop a sickle down the chimney as a warning of things to come. Their nod to Olentzero II is the popular holiday pastime of burning effigies of the giant in the city’s streets. Exterior household light displays must be a real bitch to pull off well in the Basque Country.
Today Olentzero is celebrated all over the Basque Country and coexists with the Magi, Père Noël and Father Christmas, with some families choosing to celebrate one or more at the same time just like the Thais in Pattaya are Buddhists but embrace any other religion’s gods who will bring some money their way. Just don’t tell them about Olentzero because they deal with his dopplingers every day and might end up losing their faith.
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