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9 Totally Weird Holiday Traditions

There are hundreds of holiday traditions around the globe, many of which you’ve probably never heard of – the giant goat made of hay (Sweden), the witch that brings candy (Italy), the burning pile of dirt (Guatemala). But these are the top 9 most unexpected, random, weird, awesome holiday traditions from around the world.

Christmas Log – Catalonia, Spain
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Awww, look at the little Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log). Yes, it’s a log with legs and a face and a little red hat. It may seem like a joke that just caught on, but the tradition hails from old Catalan mythology. The log is introduced in Catalan homes at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception every December 8. Leave food out for your little log each night. He gets hungry you know. And don’t forget a blanket! He might get cold. And when the kids aren’t looking, hide presents under the blanket. The idea here, people, is that carrying the log tired them out.

Night of the Radishes – Oaxaca, MX
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Every December 23, the Mexican state of Oaxaca presents the most impressive display of carved vegetables in the world. The radishes are grown especially for this event, and remain on display through Christmas day. The miniature exhibits depict the Nativity scene and other events from Mexican folklore. Originally, the tradition of radish carving was done by shopkeepers who wanted to entice people into their stores. Today, it’s a three-day festival.

SantaCon – Worldwide
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What began as a nonsensical gathering of San Franciscans dressed as Santa Claus, has become a worldwide pub crawl. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014, the official website describes it as “a conventions of santas – groups of men and women dressed as Santa.” That’s all it takes? Well, as specified in the very important guidelines, one cannot merely show up in a Santa hat. And one must address every single participant as “Santa.” Alrighty then.

Spider Webs for Good Luck – Ukraine

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The Ukrainian tradition of adding spider webs to the Christmas tree is odd, until you learn about the legend. In a nutshell: a poor widow lived with her children in a cold, damp hut. Her children had their sights set on a young Evergreen tree growing outside as their future Christmas tree. But they had nothing to decorate the tree. The woman cried herself to sleep that night, but the household spiders took note of her despair, and covered the tree in their intricate webs. In the morning, the sun hit the tree, which shimmered in silver and gold thread. From that day on, the widow never wanted for anything again.

Hide All Brooms – Norway

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A vestige of ancient pagan days, Norwegians go to the trouble of hiding all brooms on Christmas Eve. And sometimes the menfolk even take out their guns and fire a warning shot into the air. According to legend, witches and other evil spirits come out on that night each year. And you know what witches want…brooms.

KFC – Japan
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Ok, we kinda get this one. Fried chicken on Christmas Eve sounds like a good tradition. Sure, but why KFC? Every establishment has a long line trailing out the door. Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, so it must be something about the “Americanness” of the meal. That and good marketing that goes back to the 1970s. The tradition holds strong. There’s even a Smithsonian article about it.

Rollerskating to Mass En Masse – Venezuela
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Now here’s a fun Christmas tradition. Besides being woken up by firecrackers in the wee hours of the morning, residents of the Venezuelan city of Caracas get up, pull out their roller skates, and take off for mass. Many streets are closed to traffic and whole families wheel their way into the church pews. To hear the sound of skates in those sacred spaces!

Caroling with a Dead Horse – Wales
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On no particular day or time, from Christmas to late January, Mari Lwyd is a ritual of old, meant to bring good luck. One person dresses up as a horse, using an actual horse skull, and is accompanied by a group of people. Together they go from house to house and sing in the hopes that they will be rewarded with food and drink. This is not as foreign a tradition you might think. It is referred to in the Christmas carol “Here We Come A-wassailing.”

Krampus – Austria, Germany, Hungary
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For the good children, there is Santa Claus. For the bad, there is Krampus, a beast-like creature who shows up in order to punish the ill-behaved. Just the sight of him is punishing indeed! Krampus has roots in Germanic folklore. Today, young people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets in Austria, Romania, Bavaria, and other Balkan countries to frighten young children. Merry Christmas, everyone!

An Iberian Adventure in Portugal and Spain

One week ago, I was taking part in a luxury tour with Insight Vacations, to check out the sights from Lisbon, Portugal to Seville, Spain.

This Iberian adventure would have me falling in love with the colors of Lisbon and the food and people I met along the way. The grittiness of Lisbon is contrasted by the beauty of its history. The cultures that have influenced it still visible in its architecture and present in its food. The people reminded me of my own Latin heritage, with our vocal, often loud mannerisms, yet helpful and friendly demeanor.

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I shared my journey through Lisbon in my Findery notemap, Touring Lisbon, the most memorable of my journey being my afternoon in Santa Luzia and the colorful roof tops of the same and taking the tram over the many hills of this magical city.

But as much as I loved Lisbon, it would be Seville that would steal my heart completely. This cosmopolitan city is full of life and energy, beauty and culture. It’s many flowers and orange trees, even in the height of the fall season, highlight the colors and scents of the streets.

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A night of Flamenco is a compliment to any Spanish experience, but especially so in Sevilla and a walk through the nearby Cordoba is like a walk back in time.

There is so much to see, taste, do, and explore, each city unique and beautiful in its own way, its people warm and welcoming. I enjoyed it most off-season, though the weather was a bit chilly and rain. It was nothing a good glass of sangria couldn’t fix!

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Carol Cain is a travel writer. Check out her blog Girl Gone Travel. And follow her on Findery: @GirlGoneTravel.

Introducing Findery 3 for iPhone

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Findery for iOS has a new look! Now more beautiful and streamlined to make finding great places and leaving notes around the world easier.

What’s new?
+ New look and simplified experience, with easier navigation and discovery. Easier swiping!

+ Browse nearby places and explore faraway destinations with Near and Far.

+ Adding notes to notemaps is far simpler. Newbie contributors are able to save great notes they write or find to: My Finds, I Want to Go Here, I’ve Been Here and Memories.

Download the latest version from the App Store, and check out Near and Far. And if you’re on the web, or Android, we’ve got you covered too!

Thank You.

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We are continuously thankful and amazed by the notes left on Findery. From the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the Cape Coast in Ghana to the streets of Central London, we start and end our days at Findery HQ reading stories about meaningful places. It’s a wonderful world and we are grateful to share it with you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rottenest City on the Pacific Coast

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Originally established as a “pleasure town”, Chief Justice of the US, Earl Warren, dubbed Emeryville as “the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast” in 1927. It seems fitting that local residents refer to it as Eville and themselves as Evillains. The city lines were redrawn numerous times to exclude any churches, as gambling parlors, brothels, and speakeasies were the lawless epicenter of the city. Despite being known for big box stores, corporate HQ’s, and most notoriously for Swedish-made home goods, Emeryville still holds on to it’s rotten roots as it was a city built on underdogs, rebels, and hard workers with a certain edge.

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The Townhouse is a vestige of this tempestuous time. A fella named Blackie ran the wooden shack as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today the building retains its old-timey charm, but instead of moonshine, expect an upscale meal by Chef Ellen Hope Rosenberg.

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While the Townhouse holds onto the rotten past, Rotten City Pizza hangs onto it by name only. Though their thin crust New York pizza by the slice style is anything but rotten: they view their pizza as habit forming and an addictive indulgence, paralleling the hedonistic roots.

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Grab a slice of Rotten City’s pizza (or two!) and head across the street to devour it at Prizefighter. This city has dozens of hidden bars in converted spaces. Prizefighter is just that. Located in a part of town that was once known as Butchertown, the industrial brick building was once an old salmon cannery. It has been transformed into a craft cocktail bar, which also serves a wide selection of mezcals and sour beers, without a lick of pretentiousness. Hidden in plain sight, this neighborhood bar is marked only by a faded handpainted sign and fenced in patio – a great place to hang with your pooch or your pals.

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If classic cocktails are your vice, the Mai Tai doesn’t get any more original than at Trader Vic’s. Legend has it that Vic “The Trader” Bergeron created the Mai Tai in 1944 when making it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One friend tasted it and cried out “Maita’i roa ae!”, literally meaning “very good”. And thus, the Mai Tai was born right here in the East Bay at one of the first tiki bars ever.

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Get back to the rowdy and raucous roots at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, which is named after a Clash song and is co-owned by punk rocker Mike Dirnt of Green Day. Rudy’s has recently been voted Best Breakfast/Brunch, Best Diner, and Best Late Night Munchies by Oakland Magazine’s readers choice poll. Offering a bit of everything in a friendly environment for everyone, Rudy’s simply can’t fail!

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The biggest addition in Emeryville? Caffeine. The smell of freshly roasted coffee emanates from the headquarters of Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Roast Coffee Co. and Highwire Coffee. But the only place you can walk in and get your fix: Farley’s on 65th. The joint serves up De La Paz coffee alongside made-from-scratch pastries and sandwiches. Sponsoring a local non-profit a month, it’s the perfect place to find community in a cup. Plus, all that outdoor seating is rather pleasurable!

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Just around the corner from Farley’s is the office of Lauren Geremia, a Forbes 30 under 30. Initially attracted to the raw industrial space that Emeryville provides, Lauren has made a home here in an amazing space that doubles as her interior design office. When she’s not busy designing some of the best SF bars and company HQ’s (Churchill, Dropbox, Instagram, and Lumosity…just to name a few!), she’s lounging poolside in her converted auto body shop.

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With the abundance of abandoned warehouses in Emeryville, artists have been flocking here for some time. And luckily, the city supports the community. The Art in Public Places Program, established in 1990, requires commercial and large residential spaces to contribute a percentage of building costs to public art. The city also hosts The Annual Emeryville Art Exhibition that shows 100+ pieces by artists who live or work in Emeryville.

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And where there are artists, there is bound to be a cooperative. The 45th Street Artist Cooperative is home to more than 50 artists, who also work here. Founded in 1973, it has launched many artist’s careers by providing the space and support needed. Now don’t worry, this is no hippy-dippy living situation! It’s a space that fosters a sense of partnership and collaboration amongst neighbors and friends.

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TBW Books, an independent photography book publishing company so close to the Emeryville/Oakland border that it has two mailing addresses. Founder Paul Schiek published his own book, Good By Angel, in 2005 and has continued publishing the work of his friends and peers since. The subject matter is always a bit edgy, outsider, and rough with a working-man’s handmade quality to it. TBW Books publishes an annual subscription that includes 4 photo books by both established and up-and-coming artists that is always pushing for experimentation and always bad ass.

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In a city rooted in deviant and counter-culture attitudes, the local residents here thrive in a non-conformist way with burgeoning small businesses and the ability to create in an open environment. Come across the Bay and experience just how pleasurable Emeryville is. (And for goodness sake, if you go to Ikea and have to eat the meatballs, at least enjoy the view from the cafeteria!)

Announcing the Findery Public API

At Findery, we love sharing interesting stories about places around the world. Up until now, the only way to join the party was through Findery.com or our apps.

Now there’s a backstage pass with the Findery API.

Using the Findery API (v.2, if you were around for v.1), developers can integrate with Findery. Create Findery notes for any location, gather notes into collections (we call them notemaps), and discover interesting places nearby. The Findery API is free and includes endpoints for notes, notemaps, comments, users, following, and more.

What can I do with the API?

With the Findery API, you can take advantage of our great content, near and far. Get nearby notes for local discovery, tourism, or the awesome tidbits you won’t find in history books. Display notes about your business to show how much customers love you. Create a notemap full of hidden treasures to visit. We look forward to finding new uses for Findery!

How do I get started?

The Findery API is free and easy. If you have experience with APIs, you should feel right at home. The Findery API implements the OAuth 2.0 standard for secure authentication and authorization and uses SSL for communication.

Get started by registering your app. It only takes a few minutes.

Learn more about the Findery API at https://findery.com/developer. And please feel free to ask us questions on Stack Overflow.

Three Great Notemaps: Spite, Delight & Nostalgia

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I was staring at the three notemaps I’d chosen trying to figure out a theme, and all I could could come up with was that there’s a little bit of myself reflected in each of these. So I guess the theme here is narcissism, and I’m just going to embrace that.

Spite Houses by staycurious

I’d never known about “spite houses” until I came across them on Findery, and now I kind of can’t get over them. I mean, it’s difficult enough to build or maintain a house, you know? It takes a fair amount of planning, money and patience. But to build one (or resist tearing one down) out of spite? Incredible. Does the spite help? Is it like fuel? Does it last all the way through to the completion of the house or the demise of the owner? Is a spite house a spite house forever? So many things to consider! I’m not generally a spiteful person, but I can appreciate a juicy irrational obsession, so I’m a big fan of this notemap.

Travel Surprises by chicagoing

This notemap represents my absolute favorite thing about traveling: finding the unexpected. Both good and bad, big and small. I love all the misadventures on this notemap, but I can totally picture myself in a “Snookum Bear” situation.

Brat Pack America by smokler

This one hits me in two spots. I’m a softie for John Hughes’ movies, and my wife and I lived in Chicago for over a decade, so I actually recognize some of these locations. I’ve also got to admire Smokler’s dedication here—this notemap has 50 notes! (And they’re all great.)

Laurel is a Findery rock star. Our designer, that is! When she’s not doing designery at Findery, she’s petting a cat and leaving humorous Findery notes.

Follow her: @hechanova

Are you ashamed of where you grew up?

If you’re ashamed of where you grew up, you shouldn’t be. Some of our greatest heroes and most famous celebrities came from humble backgrounds. And all of these places are worth a visit.

Elvis Presley
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Image via Wikimedia Commons

Born: January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi in the house above, which was built just in time for Elvis’s birth.
Context: He had a twin brother, delivered stillborn 35 minutes before him. As an only child, he was close to his parents, especially his mother. They attended the Assembly of God church, the source of his musical inspiration.
Life Achievement: The best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music.
Legacy: One of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. You aren’t called the King of Rock and Roll for nothin’!
Visit: The Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum is open 7 days a week, so stop on by!

Abraham Lincoln
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Image via Wikimedia Commons

Born: February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Illinois
Context: He was raised in a one-room log cabin, like the one pictured. His parents were strict Baptists, opposed to alcohol, dancing, and slavery.
Life Achievement: 16th President of the United States
Legacy: Portrait on the penny and $5 bill. Ranked in Top 3 Presidents. Abolishing slavery might have something to do with it!
Visit: The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park is open daily.

Andrew Carnegie
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Image via Wikimedia Commons

Born: November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland
Context: The above house is a typical weaver’s cottage, with only one main room. It was shared with another family.
Life Achievement: American Industrialist Worth More Than $310 Billion
Legacy: He gave away almost 90% of his fortune to charities and foundations, making him one of the greatest American philanthropists.
Visit: The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum is open daily.

Oprah Winfrey
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Image via Flickr

Born: January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi
Context: Her single, teenage mother raised her here. They were so poor Oprah wore potato sacks as clothes.
Life Achievement: The most influential TV talk show host of all time, as well as the richest African American of the 20th Century.
Legacy: “Queen of All Media”
Visit: The house no longer exists, but many make a pilgrimage to the site.

Leonardo da Vinci
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Image via Flickr, by Pat Morris

Born: April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Republic of Florence (present-day Italy)
Context: Leonardo was born to unmarried parents, Piero da Vinci, a notary, and Caterina, a peasant woman. Not much is known about his early life, but he spent his first five years in the house pictured with his mother. Then in 1457, he moved in with his father and grandparents, and received an informal education.
Life Achievement: A leading artist in the Renaissance, he produced around 30 paintings, many of which are considered masterpieces.
Legacy: An artist genius bar none, still taught in schools around the world today.
Visit: See the gorgeous Tuscan town and his house all year long.

Babe Ruth
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Image via Authentic Baltimore

Born: February 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland
Context: The apartment pictured is located in Pigtown. Looks nice now, but it was a rough area of town at the time. His parents were German Americans. His dad had a series of jobs: streetcar operator and lightning rod salesman among them.
Lifetime Achievement: He played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, during which he established many batting and pitching records. One of the first five inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Legacy: According to some, the greatest baseball player of all time.
Visit: See where he grew up and exhibitions featuring historic artifacts belonging to the Great Bambino himself.

Leif Eriksson
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Image via Findery, by Firda Beka

Born: 970 or 980 in Iceland and possibly in the house pictured, which his parents lived in for some time.
Context: His father was Erik the Red, known for founding the first Norse settlement in Greenland. In other words: he was an explorer. And an outlaw.
Life Achievement: The first European to set foot on North America.
Legacy: Commemorated on October 9 in the United States as one of the most important explorers ever.
Visit: Not a museum, and a bit of a drive, but see the gorgeous Icelandic countryside while you make the trek.

Hackthon at Findery

On Thursday and Friday last week, the Findery team had a Hackathon, which, for the uninitiated, means that team members work on projects not in the usual scope of their work for about 24 hours. We started at 10AM on Thursday and presented what we’d built at noon on Friday. Amazing things were made, some of them ongoing projects we’ve been hacking on for a while, and many new ones. We worked on:

  • Public API, which has been under development for a while, but has made tremendous progress in this iteration
  • Trip Planner V1 (Android), in which a user enters a start and finish for a road trip, say from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, and highlighting the best routes along the way
  • Trip Planner V2 (Web)Same as the above, except for the web
  • Quick Capture, in which photos and audio are captured and translated into Findery note instantaneously
  • Findery AR, an Augmented Reality view of notes, which you can swish around and see the stories on the places in your immediate vicity, AR style
  • Collaborative Notemaps, that is, making it possible for a notemap to have many authors

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A screenshot of the Collaborative Notemaps and AR version for now, more coming. And be sure to let us know if you have any amazing ideas of things we should build at our next Hackathon, coming in December.

Findery in the Wild

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Findery: Now available on Android and iOS

Have you tried Findery in the wild? If not, download Findery on Google Play or on iTunes. With Findery mobile apps, it’s easy to discover the world and explore places near and far. Roadtrips, vacations and walks around your neighborhood are more fun with with Findery. It’s like a travel companion full of inside information and great stories. Show the world the places that are meaningful to you- all from your phone.

What will you find on Findery?

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