Our New Catalan Christmas Traditions – Caga Tio and Caganer

Let’s first start off this entry to say that Josh and I are not religious – at all.  If you are in any way religious and might be offended by the possible poking fun at a Christmas tradition here in Barcelona then stop reading here.  However, if you are in the mood for a good chuckle on a Saturday night, keep reading… I think you’ll find it amusing, especially if you like potty humor.

Since we can’t be home this year for the holidays enjoying our usual traditions with our friends and families we hope you will help us to “embrace” our new traditions here in Barcelona.

CAGA TIO

As I hinted about in my Tis the Season blog in mid November, it’s time to give you the scoop on our new friend, Caga Tio, otherwise known as the poop log.  I’m sure after that entry many of you were quite honestly think WTF, a poop log at Christmas?  Who does that kind of thing?  Well, the Catalans do.  And like many of the other traditions we’ve come to know and (mostly) to love in the last year, it’s different from those we have at home.  But when in Rome… buy a pooping log!

I found out about caga tio thru a friend of mine who was here for Christmas last year.  This is a tradition exclusive only to Catalunya, the region in Spain where we live.  The kids have been absolutely dying for one and tonight we finally made their wish come true.  We went down to the Christmas market near The Cathedral and purchased not one, but two of these Catalan gems, one for each of the kids.  He kind of reminds me of Mr. Hanky from the old South Park days… sort of…

On our way to the Christmas Market after a dinner at Hard Rock… a little American tradition mixed with some Catalan tradition tonight!
Entering the Christmas market – apparently everyone else had the same plans tonight – it was mobbed!
The form of the Caga Tio found in many Catalan homes during the holiday season is a hollow log of about thirty centimetres length. It’s only been in recent years that a face and legs along with a little red cap were added. Before this he literally was a piece of dead wood – I honestly can’t imagine how that would have been fun for anyone but hey, to each their own.
The first of many caga tio displays – this one had mainly mini ones
And another display
This is where we bought ours.  Actually 2 of the front ones were the ones we bought – Aidan liked that they came with blankets.  
Liam checking out his new caga tio
Someone selling something other than Caga Tios!
The boys are very proud of their Caga Tios!
Aidan set up his caga tio as soon as we got home and demonstrated hitting him with a stick.  I asked him what he was going to name him.  “Mr. Christmas” was his reply.
 Starting on December 8 which is a holiday here (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), the tradition is to give the tio a little something to “eat” every night and to cover him with a blanket so that he will not be cold.  My kids did this tonight so I guess we are slightly ahead of the game.
Aidan with our Caga Tios and Caganers
Too bad Liam fell asleep before he could see them all set up.
On Christmas Day (or Eve, your preference), you are supposed to put him partly into your fireplace and order him to “poop” presents (this is kind of like the hide the matzo where you hide the present right before the kids start to hit it). To make him poop you are supposed to beat him with sticks (ours even came with the sticks to him him with). When you hit him with the stick you are supposed to sing the following song:

Caga Tio                           Poop log

caga torro                         poop turron (for those that don’t know that’s a candy similar to a toffee)
avellanes i mato                 hazlenuts and cottage cheese

si no cagues be                  if you don’t poop well
et dare un cop de basto     I’ll hit you with a stock
caga tio!                            poop log!

After hitting it softly with a stick during the song it is hit harder on the words “caga tió!”. Then somebody puts his hand under the blanket and takes a gift – I look at this as similar to hidding the matzo. The gift is opened and then the song begins again.
CAGANER
The Caganer is another new tradition for us here though he originates from some time around the 17th century.  Though he will stand alone in our house unlike in other Catalan homes.  That’s because he normally is hidden in a nativity scene in one’s home – not near the manger scene.  Not being religious we don’t have a nativity scene here although we were tempted to purchase one tonight just so our caganers (yes plural, Josh bought 4!) would have a “home”.
The Caganer, unlike the Caga Tio, is popular in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Southern France – not just here in Catalunya.  You are probably wondering why you might find something that most would find offensive in such a highly religious display.  We were wondering the same.  This is what we found on wikipedia:
  • Tradition
  • Perceived humor.
  • A fun spectacle, especially for children.
  • The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth.
  • The Caganer represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone shits.
  • Increased naturalism of an otherwise archetypal (thus idealised) story, so that it is more believable, taken literally and seriously.
  • The idea that God will manifest himself when he is ready, without regard for whether we human beings are ready or not.
  • The caganer reinforces that the infant Jesus is God in human form, with all that being human implies.
In the past the Caganer was always considered to be a Catalan peasant and wore a red cap and white shirt.  In more recent years you will find other characters (as you’ll see from our pictures) and back in 2008 they even had one of President Obama (I did not see this one at the market)!!  If you aren’t into a pooping statue they also make a Pixaner who pees in the nativity scene.  No, we didn’t buy him.  Maybe next year!
A stand at the market with Caganers and Pixaners
 A Barca Caganer – Aidan loved this one (and he actually took the picture)!
Aidan demonstrating for us what a Caganer does…
Josh with a surprise for the boys… sorry you’ve got to wait til you get home to see it!
At home – our display of Caga Tios and Caganers.  Of the Caganers we have two of the more traditional Catalan ones along with a Smurf (who poops blue if you didn’t notice) and Bart Simpson.
There is supposed to be a huge nativity scene in City Hall Plaza and I’m very curious to see if we can find the Caganer there – back in 2005 there was a campaign against the Caganer but from what I understand he was “reinstated” into the nativity scene because many felt it was breaking with Catalan tradition.  We’ll be making a trip down there this week and I’ll be sure to post any pics of what we find!

Hope you enjoyed our new holiday traditions as much as we have!

Julie

2 thoughts on “Our New Catalan Christmas Traditions – Caga Tio and Caganer

  1. Reblogged this on The Expat Chronicles and commented:

    As my youngest had to write about a favorite holiday tradition for school and almost all of his memories are from Christmas in Spain (since he was 2 when we relocated), it made me think back to this old post. An oldie but goodie from our times back in Barcelona!

    Like

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