Photo by joan ggk/Wikimedia Commons
On Christmas Eve, Catalan children receive their gifts and treats not from Santa Claus, but rather from El Tió. No, not their uncle, in case you were translating this Catalan word as "tío" in Spanish. The Caga Tió is a smiley face log that you will find in Catalan homes from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception until Christmas Eve. And no, that is not a santa hat on good ol' Caga Tió - it is a Catalan barretina.
A Tió Gegant at the Fira de Santa Llúcia. My children stood in line to give the Tió a good hit with a stick and sing along with Catalan children. One day I saw children on field trips to visit the Tió Gegant.
Catalan children are not passive participants in receiving their gifts. Unlike many other children who simply go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads and awake to gifts. Catalan children have to work hard for their gifts. While singing a traditional Caga Tió song, they use sticks to beat the Caga Tió until he poops their gifts!
Yes, you read that right - the Caga Tió poops gifts and sweets. In case you don't know Catalan, "cagar" is to poop. So, a "Caga Tió" is the Poop Log. Cute, huh. Well, I do think those smiling little Caga Tiós are quite sweet, so we just had to have one in our house. My kids adore their Caga Tió. They treat him like a pet, making sure he is warm and well fed.
Traditional Caga Tio Song
There are many different versions, but all seem to have the same basic idea.
Caga Tió, caga torró Poop Log, poop turrón
D'avellena o de pinyó made from almond or pinenuts
No caguis arengades Don't poop herrings (or sardines)
Que són massa salades They are too salty
Caga torrons Poop turrons
Que són més bons They are better
¡Si no vols cagar... If you don't poop...
Et donaré un cop de bastó, I will hit you with a stick,
Caga Tió! Poop log!
Caga Tió Tradition Reenactment
A Family Celebrating Caga Tió
(some Catalan translations: "mes fort" = "harder, "caga be" = "poop well")
An Interview with Caga Tió
This little video investigates how the Caga Tió feels about his important role in Catalan Christmas celebrations. (If you are watching with children, beware that some synonyms of "poop" are used in the video.)
And so now, I finally have the answer to my question about the smiling log and kids with sticks that I wrote in an earlier post. Definitely not what I was expecting!