Anything But Paella

A very Catalan Christmas tradition

All around the world we can find examples of unusual customs and Spain is no exception. As the year draws to a close, Catalonia demonstrates just how strange the world really is. Look on any Christmas market in the region, and on many across the country, and you will find both caganers and Caga Tios in many colours, shapes and sizes. What are they and why are they so popular? Read on the discover more.

What is a caganer?

To be polite, let’s just describe the Catalan caganer as a porcelain figure defecating in public. Yes, you read correctly, Catalans go wild over both traditional and famous icons doing a number two on their mantelpiece. Of course, the mantelpiece isn’t where you will generally find caganers. They conventionally hide somewhere in the dark corners of a Belen, an elaborate nativity scene. This happens both in the privacy of your own home and in large municipal displays on plazas around Spain. It’s one of the Christmas games that children play: to spot the caganer on the Belen. In years gone by, the caganer was a peasant dressed in a white gown and a red cap who dropped his drawers in the darkness of a stable. Nowadays anything goes. You will find caganers in the form of Barcelona footballers, the Queen, and even the Pope! No longer do they hide in the background. Today they are proudly displayed at the forefront of any festive display.

Where can I get one?

Christmas markets are becoming increasingly popular in Spain. In Catalonia you will find caganers for sale everywhere. They are not just sold at Christmas time though. Souvenir shops will sell them year round, especially in the Barcelona area. There are other options too. You can buy them online at www.caganer.com. Look out for political characters from a very turbulent year in Catalonia, and no doubt Trump and Clinton are still pulling their pants down this year! Pooping Stars offer a similar service and you’ll find a wide range of famous figures on their website, from Colonel Gaddafi to Pope Benedict.

Who is Caga Tio?

Uncle turd? Is that how you would translate this? Well, it sounds appalling, but this funny figure can also be found on Christmas markets. Caga Tio is usually a hollowed out log with a big smiley face and a seasonal red hat. Smaller versions are just decorative but the larger variety has a very practical use in households with children.

What do they do with him?

Beginning on the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December, Caga Tio is fed with chocolate treats, orange peel and turrón. This continues until Christmas Eve with the little ones looking after him, keeping him warm in a blanket, hoping for great rewards. Then, when their duty is done, they beat the crap out of him – quite literally! Singing a delightful song, they beat him with sticks until he passes out treats from his rear end. Charming eh!!

“Caga Tió! Caga turró, avellanes I mató! Si no cagues bé, et daré un cop de bastó. Caga Tió!”
“Poop log! Poop turrón, hazelnuts and cottage cheese! If you don’t poop well, I’ll beat you with a stick. Poop log!”

 

“Caga Tió! Tió de Nadal, no caguis arengades que són massa salades. Caga torrons que són més bons!”
“Poop log! Christmas log, don’t poop herrings which are too salty. Poop turrón which is much better!”

 

A bit of history

Nobody really knows for sure how these traditions started. It is presumed that both the caganer and Caga Tio are symbols of fertility. Their poo fertilises the land and provides a bountiful crop. They have been around since the 17th century where they were probably created as a cheeky joke which has more than stood the test of time!

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