December 13, 2016 No Comments

Bon Nadal! Quirky Catalan Christmas Traditions

Countries around the world celebrate Xmas in a variety of ways, and Spain has it’s share of quirky Christmas traditions. If you recently moved to Catalunya or are thinking of relocating to the area, be prepared for two eccentric customs celebrated by Catalan families for hundreds of years.

Els Caganers

No nativity scene is Catalunya or Valencia is complete without the Caganer. This is a tradition that dates back to the at least the 18th century, and is believed to have become part of the nativity proceedings since the Baroque period. In southern Europe a nativity scene will often go beyond the stable where Mary gives birth to Jesus and depicts a wider view of the farm and perhaps surrounding Bethlehem.

Like in the UK, figurines include baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, etc…and an addition – el caganer, which translated means “the crapper” or “the shitter”.

It is claimed a nativity scene without the caganer brings bad luck, because by having a dump he fertilizes the ground and also brings good fortune and happiness for the coming year. Spanish children have immense fun looking for the caganer in nativity scenes, while uninformed visitors from abroad are often shocked to see a figure with his pants down in a religious setting!

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Caga Tió

During the second half of December Catalans families collect logs from local woods and characterize them by sticking on eyes, a nose and a “barretina” which is a traditional red Catalan hat. They finish off the masterpiece by adding two sticks as front legs. The log becomes a feature of the main room in the house and is referred to as “Caga Tió” which literally translated means a defecating log.

Caga Tió will remain in place covered with a blanket and every day the family will feed him Christmas foods such as nuts and fruit and sweets. Then on Christams Eve, the children beat the log while singing a traditional song describing what they would like to see the log crap out, for want of a better phrase.

After a number of beatings, the log will expel all he has eaten from his rear end, much to the delight of the kids. The larger Xmas presents by tradition are delivered by the three kings on the 5th of January, but the small gifts from Caga Tió is a fun custom that gives the younger children something to get excited about on Xmas Eve.


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