The Scatologic Christmas of Catalonia
The strange Catalan Obsession With Poop
I was born in Barcelona, Catalonia, in the Eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain). My fellow country folks –for some unknown reason—have a deeply rooted fascination for scatology that bleeds into their most dear traditions and daily lives.
To really understand this, you need to live in Catalonia for a few years learning the Catalan language, making local friends, and studying the culture and history of this peculiar land. Otherwise, as a simple tourist or visitor, you may be outraged at the unique scatologic figures of speech and traditions of the Catalans.
For example, Catalans, when referring to some people's strong friendship ties, must be the only ethnic group in the world to say: son cul i merda (They are like ass and shit!) . Most other countries would express it like: ”two peas in a pod”, “birds of a feather”, “thick as thieves”, “attached by the hip”, etc.
Before meals, some Catalan households say to their guests: “Menge molt, caga fort I no tinguis por de la mort.” (eat a lot, shit strong and don´t fear death)
A Catalan Caga Tió
The Defecating Catalan Christmas Log
“The Caga Tió” (the defecating log), is a tradition that can be followed to the pre-Christian era. It was almost unheard of in Catalonia --during Franco´s days--, but it has come back to life and is now widely accepted as one of the Catalan traditions for Christmas.
“Caga Tiós” are now sold not only by small specialized Christmas merchants in the plazas, but also in big department stores.
About 2 weeks before Christmas --usually by December 8th, some traditional families go out into the woods to find a hollow log to take home. A face is painted on one end and sometimes even legs and arms are added. Of course, most city dwellers buy their “Caga Tiós” to save themselves a trip to the far away forests.
They cover the log with a red blanket or shawl to keep it nice and warm. Every night the log is fed some food to make it grow bigger. The parents secretly change the log for a bigger one every few days to show the children how "eating makes you grow."
The ceremony takes place around Christmas Day. The now bigger log is moved to the living room and given a place of honor. The parents already hid candy, turron, dried fruits, small toys, etc. inside the log or placed some wrapped presents under the blanket.
The children hit the log with sticks as they chant: the “Caga Tió Song”, that goes something like this:
Caga Tió, caga torró, D'avellana o de pinyó (Poop Log, poop turron made from hazelnuts or pinenuts)
No caguis arengades, que són massa salades (Don´t poop herrings, they are too salty)
Caga torrons que són més bons (Poop turrons, they are much better)
¡Si no vols cagar...Et donaré un cop de bastó! (If you don´t poop..i will hit you with a stick)
Caga Tió! (Poop log!)
After the beating, the long awaited pooped presents start to appear as the parents take them one by one from under the blanket and give them to the bewildered children. When the “arengada” or herring fish, onion or garlic head comes out, it means there are no more presents to be pooped.
Everyone participates of all the treats supplied by the log.
El Caganer del Pessebre (The Defecator )
Another unusual Catalonian scatologic tradition, is the appearance of the unorthodox figurine of the “Caganer”(the defecator) in most Catalan Nativity displays at Christmas time.
It is usually portrayed as a Catalan farmer wearing a red “Barretina”(hat), his pants down to the ankles and clearly defecating. This figurine is placed in a secluded area in the traditional manger scenes of all Nativity displays made in Catalonia. Even the live ones!
Nowadays they have produced all kinds of“Caganer” figurines portraying celebrities, politicians and sports stars, both local and international.
Not a surprise that one of last Christmas´s best seller “Caganer” was no other than Obama!
A Typical Figurine of the "Catalan Caganer"
Wise Men´s Poop for Bad Boys and Girls
As everyone knows in Spain, if you have been a naughty boy/girl, the Three Wise Men of Orient won´t bring you toys on January 6, but instead they will leave some black coal as a punishment. But in Catalonia, the Wise Men --if you have been bad-- they won't leave you just coal... they will deliver you a poop (usually inside a toy potty). Of course, the poop is made of edible stuff, a mixture of chocolate and “mazapan”. Nevertheless the effect is terrific.
During the Christmas season, most pastry shops sell candy poop in all sizes, shapes and colors. It has become a tradition to buy these sweet poops as a present/joke for friends and relatives.