The Catalan Christmas Figure of El Caganer

Traditional Catalan shepherd wearing the typical Catalan hat (barretina).
Traditional Catalan shepherd wearing the typical Catalan hat (barretina).

The caganer is one of the most characteristic and beloved figures in popular Catalan Christmas. In Spain, the Nativity scene is not only a representation of the birth scene but it is representation of a larger geographical area. Entire villages, rivers and hills are brought to live where time has its own place. The scene stays on display until roughly the 7th of January as baby Jesus waits for the arrival of the three wise men who bring gold, mirrh and incense. The figures that live in the scene are moved daily as if they were alive and going on with their lives. Around the 31st of December, the three wise men appear in the horizon and start their way into the Nativity scene. The movement of these figures is normally the job of the children of the house. Just like baby Jesus, they will receive presents on the 6th of January, and the task of moving the figures increases their expectation over the presents.

Kids also share the same expectation when they cannot find the Caganer. The figure of a shepherd answering nature's call in the Nativity scene. You have read right, a shepherd taking a crap next to baby Jesus. Well, not that close. El Caganer is normally placed somewhere hidden, behind a rock or a big tree and some days it is moved to a different place. Perhaps to give some realism, as he would not be at that same spot for fifteen days.

Most of all, the Caganer is one of the elements which gives its traditional identity to Catalan Christmas.

Some people think it is bizarre, some people think it is unrespectful and some people think it is hilarious. Those who know catalan people, are used to us talking crap. I don't mean talking nonsense, I actually mean the physical poo. We catalans are very scatological and use the word poo daily within many of our catalan sayings. Personally I am a zoologist and love to look at wildlife scats to see what they have been eating, but that is another story.


Why On Earth...?

...would you put a crapper on the Nativity scene?

The history behind the Caganer goes as far back as the 17th century. It is not known how it all started but many explanations as to why would anyone place someone taking a poo in a scene that is considered Holy. Some of them are:

  • As a sign of prosperity. The act of fertilising the earth for prosperous new year.
  • To increase the naturalism of the scene.
  • The idea that God will manifest whenever he wants, disregarding if humans are ready or not. (personally, I don't really agree with this one)
  • It's FUN

I just like him because he is one of the most lovable Catalan traditions. It reminds me of spending endless hour of putting the whole Nativity scene together when I was a child. The smell of the moss, the fake river, and the twinkling lights around the whole scene. Of course the last one to be put into place was the Caganer. Kids would be honored to be the ones chosen to put him in place.


How To Get A Caganer

Christmas markets

The typical way of getting your own Caganer is while strolling around the Catalan streets during December. With hundreds of Christmas markets around there is never a shortage on Caganers and other figures to complement your nativity scene.

My favorite market is St. Llucia's market, right in front of Barcelona Cathedral. It is always buzzing with people, and it is in a perfect spot. Just a few hundred of meters away, the best chocolate shops in Barcelona are waiting for you to try their famous hot chocolate.

Another market in Barcelona is the one located in front of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. Smaller than St. Llucia's market but cosier, you'll never forget the smell of Christmas after visiting it.

Click of the mouse

caganer.com has a wide range of different caganers, traditional and non-traditional. Fancy having a Caganer Obama? or How about having Michael Jackson answering nature's call in your house?

The figure of the Caganer is not considered to be unrespectful. Many public figures that have their own Caganer are flattered.

Make your own

Since now I relocated to the States, I considered buying this year's Caganer on line. But if you buy more than one, the delivery charges add up. So we decided to do our own. Why not try to do yours? Just get some Sculpey modeling clay in different colors and shape them together. For ours, we used the following colors: red, black, white, skin color and brown (duh!). The kids will love this little project.


Homemade Caganer Made With Modelling Clay

Have Your Own Caganer

You don't need to have a nativity set up in your house to have a caganer. Our caganer is sitting on a nice plant in the middle of the living room. It is fun to have one and, honestly, he is adorable. He will bring prosperity for the next year and some laughs along the way.

So why not make something different and put a caganer in your life?



Sing Along! - El Caganer

In Christmas 2009, a bunch of Catalan singers got together to compose what it would be the Catalan Christmas song of the year. It is a simple, cheerful and catchy song that explains how to create a proper nativity scene. Starting with the moss, the stars and all the figures...but we mustn't forget to place the Caganer in his spot.

The chorus goes like that:

"Pero sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer" which translates as

"Above all, there has to be a caganer"

2009 Catalan Christmas Song - El Caganer

Lyrics of El Caganer Song

Someone asked for the lyrics of this song. I'd like to see some of you singing it! You may need a glass or two of wine. All together now... :) ,


Shalalalala Shalalalala Shalalalalalá
Shalalalala Shalalalala Shalalalalala

En un pessebre hi ha d'haver-hi
un nen Jesús i el Sant Josep
també la Verge Maria,
una vaca y una mula
y mal penjat un angelet.

Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.


Hi ha d'haver-hi escorça i molsa
i un poblet ben nevadet
i un riu de paper de plata
i pastorets i pastoretes
al voltant d'un foc rogent.

Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.


En un pessebre hi ha d'haver-hi
tres gallines i un ferrer,
un ramat de cabres sueltes
i una iaia castanyera
i un dimoni dins l'infern.

Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.


Agafeu la cartolina
retalleu un cel immens
i afegiu-li unes estrelles.
Els que no tinguin llumetes
hi podran posar gomets.

Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.


També hi ha d'haver tres reis
amb tres patges, tres camells,
que vénen des de l'Orient,
carregats, porten presents.
Què bé que ens ho passarem!

Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
Però sobretot hi ha d'haver-hi,
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.


Al pessebre hi ha d'haver,
hi ha d'haver-hi un tamboret
perquè hi segui Sant Josep.
I si no hi ha tamboret,
que el pobret s'estigui dret.

No us en oblideu mai més
en un pessebre hi ha d'haver,
en un pessebre hi ha d'haver-hi
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.
No us en oblideu mai més
en un pessebre hi ha d'haver,
en un pessebre hi ha d'haver-hi
hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer.

Shalalalala Shalalalala Shalalalalalá
Shalalalala Shalalalala Shalalalalalá

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Comments 7 comments

Misha profile image

Misha 5 years ago from DC Area

LOL Quite a twist to the traditional theme. Loving it :)


CrisKat profile image

CrisKat 5 years ago Author

yeah! do you mean you are going to make your own? :)


Misha profile image

Misha 5 years ago from DC Area

Nah, I am lazy and don't believe in that. But love this grassroot humor :)


jan 5 years ago

Do you know all the words to the caganer song in either English or Catalan? I have a friend who really needs this information. Thanks!


CrisKat profile image

CrisKat 5 years ago Author

Misha: isn't it great?

Jan: I will include the full words tonight or tomorrow. check back in anytime! Thanks oh, how come your friend really needs it? :)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Funny stuff CK. It definitely makes the whole scene down to earth. Have a happy holiday. =:)


CrisKat profile image

CrisKat 5 years ago Author

Thanks! Have a happy holiday too :)

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