If Christmas is about embracing your inner child, the Catalans have well and truly achieved this. For what could be more childish than taking delight in everything to do with poo. Most young children go through the poo phase, giggling over the word and using it as often as they possibly can. In Catalonia this is taken to the next level as Christmas here in Barcelona is all about pooing logs and, excuse my Catalan, little shitters (caganers).
Traditional nativity scenes contain Mary, Joseph, Jesus and all the usual suspects. But look a little more closely and you will spot a man squatting with a pile of poo beneath him. This is the caganer. In recent times it has become popular to see US Presidents, the Pope, Spanish Prime Ministers and all kinds of celebrities made into caganers, but the original figure is a man in a traditional red cap (barretina), white shirt and black trousers. And he is every bit as important as Jesus in the Catalan nativity scene, not least because it is believed that if you don’t include him, it will be something of a plague upon your houses, as he is believed to bring good luck.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. One of the most popular traditions is the ‘crapping log’, the ‘Tió Nadal’ (Christmas log). In Catalonia the log arrives into the house on 8th December, the date of the Virgin Mary’s conception. Children then feed and care for the log until 24th December, the day upon which Christmas is celebrated on the continent. On Christmas day the children smack the log with sticks, akin to striking the Mexican piñata and along with singing the below, they shout out”Caga, tió, caga” (Poo log, poo!). They then check under his blanket to see if the log has indeed pooed out presents. These presents were traditionally things such as nougat, but nowadays can include all manner of gifts. The song they sing is:
Caga tió, Caga torró, Avellanes i mató, Si no cagues bé, Et daré un cop de bastó, Caga tió!
Which can be translated into English as:
Poo log, Poo nougats (turrón),Hazlenuts and mató cheese,If you don’t poo well, I’ll hit you with a stick, Poo, log!
All that remains for me to do therefore, is to wish you, from the heart of Barcelona, a very crappy Christmas!