Little is left until Christmas – and walking the streets seeing all the lights and decorations we all feel the holiday spirit in our bones. All cultures that celebrate Christmas share common traditions, like having a tree or a nativity scene, however, every culture as some peculiarities when it comes to holiday customs.
I have been living in one of the apartments in Barcelona for over 2 years now and I found that there are some very odd Christmas traditions that might surprise you. Let’s start off with the strange premise that some of them are related to feces, but don’t worry. There is no lack of hygiene involved!
The Catalan word for nativity scene is Pessebre. The Caganer which is literally translated the Pooper is a figure that can’t be missing in the Pessebre. It is a Catalan peasant wearing a barretina, a red hat with his pants down pooping. The origins of this tradition aren’t clear. One possible explanation is that is meant as a symbol for good luck and prosperity because he is “fertilizing” the land for a good harvest.
Another nice explanation is that he represents the equality of all people: No matter what race, gender, background or origin we all have to poop. Of course humor is intended as well and you can also get figurines of celebrities and other people in the public eye in position of the Caganer.
But this is not the only Christmas custom that makes reference to poop. From Dec 8th on, many people have a caga tio in their Barcelona apartments, translated a poop log. It is a hollow wood log that stands on four legs. It has a smiley face painted on and like the Caganer it wears the typical barretina. Until Christmas Day it gets “fed” and sometimes people cover it with a blanket at night so it won’t get cold. But it only gets taken care of so well, because on Christmas Day you have to make him “poop”, either you partly burn it or you beat it so candy, nuts and turron come out of it. These gifts are shared among everyone.
The reference to poop might be a bit strange, but they go back to an old Catalan saying Menja be, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort! translated “Eat well, poop strong and don’t be afraid of death.” Bon Nadal!