Monday, December 13, 2010

A Very Merry Catalonian Christmas

So even though I am looking forward back to Christmas in the States I have definitely enjoyed Christmas time over here in Catalunya.  There are lights up in the city over the streets and although there’s no snow here you can tell it’s Christmas time.

If you haven’t noticed, Catalunya has a lot of different customs and traditions (hence the political charged saying “Catalonia is not Spain”) and Nadal (Catalan for Christmas) is no exception.  There are two main Catalan traditions that I want to mention: Cagatió and the Caganers.

Cagatió is a very popular Christmas tradition for kids in Catalunya that centers around a little log (called Tió de Nadal) with a painted face, like so:

Beginning on December 8th and up through Christmas Eve the kids feed the Tió something small (like bread), give it some water and cover it with a blanket every night before they go to bed.  Then on either Christmas Eve or Christmas day the kids beat the log with a stick while singing songs in the hopes that it will poop out presents.  At first the kids softly beat the log while singing songs like “caga tió, caga torró, avellanes i mató, si no cagues bé, et daré un cop de bastó, caga tió!” (translation: poop log, poop turrón, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don't poop well, I'll hit you with a stick, poop log!).  For good measure, the kids brutally hit the log with the stick while screaming “CAGA TIÓ!” (poop log!) before they lift up the blanket to find all the presents that tió pooped for them!  The presents are generally small though because in Spain los reyes magos (the Three Wise Men) bring the boys and girls their presents on January 6th (though Santa Clause is making inroads, just as with Halloween).

Here’s a very cute video of a Catalan kid making Tió de Nadal poop out his presents:

The other popular tradition in Catalunya is the giving of Caganers.  It’s a small statue that populates all the local nativity scenes, both the public and private ones.  This sounds innocent right?  Well the thing is, the caganer statue is a person with his/her buttocks exposed (colloquially called “mooning," I believe ;) ) with a neat little pile of poo on the floor.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

The exact origin of the tradition is unknown but it still remains very popular.  There’s a huge Christmas market, called Fira de Santa Llúcia, in the plaza of the main cathedral in the Gothic Quarter and I counted at least 8 stands selling caganers and many more selling tiós de Nadal of all sizes.  Oh yeah, and no one is sacred when it comes to caganers.  There are ones of Obama, Hillary, Bush, the Pope, Zapatero (the Spanish prime minister), Tiger Woods, the Statue of Liberty, Darth Vader, ect.  If you’re curious here’s the website where you can view and buy caganers.

Also, here’s a video announcing the new line-up of caganers for 2009!


I had no idea there was another culture out there that's as obsessed with poop as ours, haha.

Come back on Thursday if you want to see some pictures of Christmas in Catalunya, they will be here in my updated Catalonian nationalism facebook album.

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