Soñando Sunday: Catalunya Christmas

Soñando Sunday: Catalunya Christmas

Christmas tree!

We have already briefly introduced Catalan politics, but this article focuses on Catalan Christmas Traditions (Logan this is for you when we were talking about holiday traditions that seem weird in other countries—for example, when people in Italy party with their friends on the evening of the 24th of December after a family dinner—and I told you about how when I was living in Tarragona, I had an interesting Christmas experience… The Tío de Nadal.)


The Tío de Nadal

caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!
— The song sung to ask the log to poop

This Catalan tradition consists of a log painted with a smiley face on one end and some stick ‘legs’ that is placed in a living area of the home on the 8th of December (the Día de la Inmaculada Concepción—translated to the Day of the Immaculate Conception). The Tío—which can be translated to uncle, dude, or log—is then taken care of for several weeks. He is feed sweets, fruits, and other snacks and is covered in a blanket until Christmas Eve, the day that he is supposed to “deliver his presents.”

This is when a slightly odd tradition gets a little bit weirder. The Tío de Nadal delivers his presents by pooping them out—and kids literally ask him to cagar aka poop. And they don’t just ask him nicely. The family will sing him a song, hit him with a stick, and demand that he deliver the presents that they are owed. Normally these presents are not big or exceptionally special (those are saved for the day of the Three Kings), but the this tradition is something that kids look forward to every year.

Note: In all honesty, when I observed this tradition with my au pair family I was so surprised/shocked that I didn’t take any pictures… Although I do remember it well enough to tell people about this interesting Catalan Tradition.

A traditional  Belen . Photo by Alois Grundner. 

A traditional Belen. Photo by Alois Grundner. 


The Caganer

When I started to research the Tío de Nadal in order to make sure I was sharing real information with you and not just something that happened in my family, I was reminded of another tradition involving pooping in Catalunya—The Pooping Man (Caganer).

In Calalunya, like in the rest of Spain, it is common for families, business, etc. to have Belenes, which are nativity scenes depicting Jesus’ birth. The difference in this region is that they tend to have one man in every nativity who is pooping. This statue isn’t front and center, and probably isn’t even that big, but it is always there and people get great pleasure in having and finding him in nativities. The Caganer represents fertility and good harvest in the years to come and is not meant to be disrespectful in any way to the religious ideology.  

Note: My family also had a nativity scene and a Caganer and they were both proud of the religious meaning implicated and of the little bit of fun added by the pooping man*.


What is the weirdest (to you) holiday tradition you have experienced?


*The other morning when I went to pick up the dog I babysit at 7am, I saw a real pooping man in the street. We do not condone this behavior and believe that defecation should remain out of the public eye whenever possible.