Experiencing Christmas in Catalunya for the first time last year was definitely not the Old World Christmas season I expected from living in Europe. After all, who would guess you could find a man with his pants down and pooping as a key character in the Nativity scene? And if you heard that each night kids leave food for wood log with a painted face and cap and on the final night they hit the log in hopes that he will poop chocolate, turrón and other treats, you would probably think it sounds a little cruel.
I know, your mouth is probably still dropped about the guy pooping in the manager. Meet "El Caganer" - the pooper. He really means no harm or offense and he is quite loved. There was an uproar a few years back when official pessebre of Barcelona failed to include him.
2009 Personal Pessebre de Ferran Moreno Lanza
Everyone has different theories about his meaning. Is he a symbol of equality among men (we all do it, right?) or fertilization before the coming Spring? We may never know... but we can sure have fun collecting caganers in the likeliness of politicians, futbol players and other celebrities. My favorite is Hello Kitty with bright pink poop. (check out the great video by the major caganer producer, which also sells caganers online if you cannot make it to Barcelona.)
A Caga Tió Stall |Photo: joan ggk
And now onto the next Catalan Christmas tradition that probably had you wondering if you read correctly. Meet Caga Tió - the pooping log. Not the pooping uncle as you may have tried translating his name from Spanish to English. Tió in Catalan means "log." For several days or even weeks in December ending on 24 December, children dutifully "feed" their caga tió. My kids are even careful to make sure he has a balanced diet - after, you don't want a constipated caga tió. That would mean no treats! A caga tió has no ordinary poop.. if you treat him well, he will poop candies and turrones. But wait, in order for him to poop properly, he needs to be hit with a big stick while you chant for him to poop chocolate, turrón and plead for no sardines (read the full song here). Sounds a little bizarre to the outsider, but I swear it is now the highlight of our winter celebrations.
I found an interesting video that explains Caganers and other Catalan Christmas traditions. This video also discusses Catalunya and their fight for independence. This video is a few years old. There is some footage of Santa Claus decorations in Barcelona. The interviewer asks Catalans their feelings about "Papa Noel." Last year (2009) I didn't see any Santa Claus decorations in public spaces or the shopping areas shown in this video. I did see a few balconies with a Santa Claus climbing up the railing, but that was about it. This year, I have noticed a few more Santa Claus decorations in shops, mostly for sale though.
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This post is part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpas blog carnival on Christmas Traditions Around the World hosted by Inside The Travel Lab. The previous carnival on Regrettable Travel Experiences was hosted by The Turkish Life. See Simi Travel will host the next Lonely Planet Blogsherpa carnival covering travel with a voluntary and charitable angle.