Two Strange Catalan Christmas Traditions

Tió de Nadal (“Poo Log”)

The Tio de Nadal (which is Catalan for ‘Christmas log’) is a character that plays a big role during Christmas in Catalunya. In the context of Christmas, ‘tio’ refers to a log or tree trunk. In Castellano (the Spanish dialect spoken in Spain) tío means ‘uncle’ but is also used colloquially as ‘dude’ or ‘mate.’ Tio de Nadal means ‘Chrismas log’ or ‘Christmas tree trunk,’ as opposed to Uncle Christmas.

Tió de Nadal is one of the most bizarre and amusing Christmas traditions in Catalunya. Also known as Tio Caga (pooping log), this tree trunk poops out presents for children during Christmas. Caga Tio wears a traditional Catalan red hat and is basically the Catalan equivalent of Santa Clause.

Every Christmas in Catalunya, families get a smiley little hollow wooden block, with two front sticks acting as legs and is the favourite Christmas tradition in Barcelona of children. The friendly Caga Tió arrives Catalan homes in the beginning of December, and children are supposed to take care of him every single day. The children feed him sweets every day until Christmas. This includes watering him, leaving small pieces of candy and even cover him with a blanket for the cold nights. They believe that the more they feed Tió Caga, the more presents he will give them on Christmas day. When Christmas Day comes along, the children take Tio de Nadal to the fireplace and begin to hit it with sticks while singing the Caga Tió song that roughly translates to:

Poop log

Poop sweet confections

Hazelnuts and cheese

If you don’t poop well

I’ll hit you with a stick.

Poop log.

After hitting Tio de Nadal as much as they can, the children go to another room to pray for presents. When they return to the fireplace, they will find all sorts of sweets and turrónes, which Tio de Nadal has apparently pooped out.

El Caganer (Pooping Christmas Man)

Still sticking to the poop tradition of Catalunya is the “Caganer”. This cheeky little person often can be found squatting somewhere in the holy Nativity Scene, relieving himself with his trosuers down right in front of newborn Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! El Caganer is normally dressed like a peasant, an ode to Catalunya’s working class. The act of pooping is seen as good luck because it fertilizes the soil.

In addition to the traditional peasant version of El Caganer, you’ll find lots of pooping figurines of famous people. You’ll find statuettes of Donald Trump, the Pope, Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo,  Prince William, Queen Elizabeth, and loads of other celebrities. Maybe you could buy a couple of them as a silly present for your friends.

Even though they can perceived as vulgar and gross by the unaccustomed, Caganers are mainly a symbol of humanity’s equality. The basis is there are no untouchables: everyone poops regardless of their power or social status.

Caganers are most visible in Barcelona in the Christmas markets held throughout the city. Nevertheless, they can now be found all-year round and have become a classy touristic souvenir of Barcelona.

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