In Barcelona there are two very strange Christmas traditions: a man squatting, bottom exposed, in the Nativity scene and a log that poops out presents and sweets.
Jeff and I are in Barcelona celebrating our wedding anniversary, and the Christmas markets are in full swing. While wandering through them, we stumbled upon 2 really unusual traditions… and since I can’t pass up a quirky story, I have to share them with you.
First let me explain, for those of you who might not know, that Barcelona is in an area called Catalonia which has its own identity, and its own traditions which are sometimes different from the rest of Spain. Two rather bizarre ones have to do with something rarely associated with Christmas… Poo! (Yes, you read that correctly… And we’re not talking about Winnie the Pooh here either.)
One of the first things we spotted in the Christmas market was a figurine of a man wearing the traditional red Catalan cap. But what is unusual about this fellow, is that he is squatting with his trousers down, bottom exposed, and he has left a little pile of poo beneath him. He is called the “caganer” (or the crapper).
He might have something to do with fertilizing the soil and bringing good luck, or he might just be a reminder that, in many ways, we are all the same. For whichever reason, he is almost always present in… traditional manger scenes, of all places. But, thankfully, he is hidden somewhere in the back and it’s almost a game to spot him.
In addition to the Catalan man, you can find “crappers” made in the likeness of celebrities and political figures. We saw Obama, François Hollande, Putin, and Queen Elizabeth as well as Madonna, Bart Simpson, and many others “doing their business.” It seems that no one is spared this “honor.”
The Caga Tió
The next item to catch our attention was the Christmas log. It has a happy painted face, it’s propped up on 2 front legs, and wears a red Catalan hat. At first we thought it was meant to be a reindeer, but instead, it turned out to be another crappy tradition.
It’s called a “caga tió.” Tió is the Catalan word for “log” and you might recognize “caga” from the “caganer” above (so yes, it’s basically a crapping log). It’s brought into the home in December, and the children take care of it as if it was a beloved pet. They give it dishes of food and water and cover it with a blanket.
But when Christmas Eve rolls around, the niceties end. Everyone gathers around the Christmas log and the children sing a special song… while beating the poor little log with sticks to encourage it to “poop out” presents. When the song and the beating are finished, the children leave the room and the parents put small packages and sweets under the log. The children return and lift the blanket to find what the Christmas log has “pooped out” for them.
With these 2 toilet-related traditions in mind, I think it might be appropriate to end this post with a popular Catalan saying: Eat well, poop much, and don’t be afraid of dying…
Crappy… I mean Happy Christmas from Barcelona!
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