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 we talked about when Claudia was living in Tarragona and had a true Catalan Christmas experience.) We don’t claim to know everything there is to know about Christmas time in Catalunya but we thought it would be nice to share these two traditions that surprised us.
1.) The Tío de Nadal
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 de Nadal—which can be translated to Christmas uncle, dude, or log—is then taken care of for several weeks. He is fed 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 this tradition is something that kids look forward to every year.
Note: When Claudia observed this tradition while living with her au pair family, she was surprised/shocked that she didn’t take any pictures…although she will never forget this interesting Catalan tradition.
When we started to research the Tío de Nadal in order to make sure we were sharing real information with you and not just something that happened in Claudia’s family, we were 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. What does a pooping man have to do with a Nativity scene you might ask (like we did)? 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: Claudia’s host family also had a nativity scene and a caganer and they were both proud of the religious meaning implicated and of little bit of fun added by the pooping man.
What is the weirdest (to you) holiday tradition you have experienced?