Celebrating the best of poop in this festive season
If you’ve ever visited a Christmas market in Catalonia, you may find yourself incredibly confused at some of the items on display. A smiley faced log wearing a red hat or a cheeky small figurine with his pants down taking a poo. What does someone having a poo have to do with Christmas? Well, it’s all explained here, and how Christmas is celebrated in Catalonia.
Caganer literally means ‘the shitter’ or ‘the crapper’ in Catalan. Almost every home in Catalonia sets up a small nativity scene for Christmas. This not only includes the manger but the surrounding scenery such as farmhouses. The caganer is also placed in the nativity scene – usually at the back just out of sight giving him a bit more privacy to do his thing.
So why would you want someone pooping at the back of your beautiful nativity scene? Well, according to tradition it’s meant to bring luck for the New Year and the poop symbolises fertility and prosperity. Quite a nice way to look at poop! It is not known exactly when this all started, but the tradition dates back to the 18h century. Traditionally the figure is a shepherd or peasant wearing the Catalan hat la barretina who is smoking a pipe whilst doing his business. These days, however, you can see celebrities, cartoon characters and politicians as caganers. For example, the Queen, Barak Obama or even a Caga Tio caganer…
Also known as Tio de Nadal (Christmas log), this is another tradition related to poop. Caga tio literally means ‘pooping log’ and this one is for the kids. Starting on the 8th December, children lovingly tend to the Caga Tio each day by feeding the hollowed out log with sweets and covering it with a warm blanket. Then, on Christmas Day the children sing a little song whilst hitting the poor little log with a stick to try to make it poop out all the sweets they have been force feeding it.
Less Santa Claus and more food!
Christmas in Spain starts on the 8th December, which is called the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is when the decorations are put up along with the nativity scene and the Caga Tio.
Food, and not presents, is the main event on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
Christmas Eve traditionally involves having soup in which a piece of meat has been cooked. The meat is first taken out, placed to the side and replaced with big pasta shells. The soup with pasta is eaten as the starter and then the meat is eaten for the main course. This is served alongside lavish side dishes, the more luxurious the better. Dessert is either the sweets from Caga Tio or turron, a nougat with almonds.
On Christmas Day itself, there is no set meal in particular, just so long as there’s plenty of it!
Make sure you have enough room left for Boxing Day, where they traditionally eat cannelloni filled with the leftovers from the previous day.
Three Kings Day
The presents are left until the 6th January when the Three Wise Men or Kings hand them out. The Three Kings Parade on the 5th January celebrates their arrival and involves three men dressing up as the Kings who hand out sweets to the children. The parade has caused controversy in Spain because a white man with black make up usually plays the role of Balthazar. Astonishingly, people across Spain still black up for the parade, but it is becoming less common as more people petition against it.
On the 6th January the dessert after a big meal is always El Roscon de Reyes, a ring shaped cake. Although take care when eating it as they place two items in it, a small figure of a King and a dried bean. If you get the King, you are crowned King (or Queen) for the day and get to wear a crown. If you get the bean, tough luck, you have to pay for the cake!
This is considered the final day of the Christmas period and the next day it is back to work and school for everyone…until next year when the fun begins all over again!