Christmas Traditions: The Catalan “Caganer”

Yes, Cataluña has certainly one of the most surprising christmas traditions I have ever seen…have you heard of it? Hold on tight!

It is called CAGANER…best traduced in english (maybe) as the “shitter” of christmas.

To me, even more surprising after realizing how some part of these traditions were part of my common christmas since childhood back home for some unknown reason to me…until now. It all came straight from my grandma’s side, since she was daughter of catalan parents and a catalan autumn day back in 1914.

Is amazing how traditions are taught and learned, enjoyed and passed along generations, no matter where or when.

My grandma used to put this traditional little figure on the nativity scene every year, as it is used, in a very suspicious corner where nobody could find it. It was a race among cousins! First thing after arriving to grandma’s house in christmas time, was giving a quick kiss-hello to her, then sneaking inside the house all the way up to the place where the mystery shit-machine was to be found between laughs and competitive looks…the one who found it first was the winner, having to hide it somewhere else for the next cousin to come. It was so much fun…I mean, it still is! I am 30 years old now and the shitter will always be there for everyone at my grandma’s house…oh yeah.

Then I came to Barcelona, following my grandma’s roots, over curiosity and passion for travel and something else…just thirsty!

I arrived with my husband Fede,  one January back in 2010 (time has gone and we are still here loving this life). 2010 went by until christmas came…discovering one big now-solved mystery right there, in front of my very own eyes: THE SHITTER ALL OVER THE PLACE!

“What’s all this about???” – I thought aggressively. – “This is both confusing and exciting! But what the hell? Grandma?” – I phoned her as soon as I could!

Wow. Yes, the shitter I had known for my entire life was a traditional catalan thing she learned form her parents back home, even after being raised in Costa Rica since young age, she always had it too. It was in her memories and in her veins. So she taught us the same. (Funny thing how catholic and religious my sweet grandma is…but there is always some corner for the shitter in the nativity scene of course!)

So, back to Cataluña today and to this christmas tradition: what is this all about? Let me explain.

 

WHAT IS IT?

As it is called in catalan language, there is this small figure: EL CAGANER. A small, particular, funny and unexpected figure which you will find in every catalan nativity scene. I guess there are not enough words in order to explain this, so I just better show you some visuals.

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia
Traditional “caganer” with catalan dress. (Photo by Google Images)

 

As simple as this.

The caganer is a symbol of fertility, so they say, which represents the good harvest and the good year to come next thanks to the feces “downloaded” over the earth. Not exactly as a good luck thing, but a good sign of land’s fertility and productivity. And yes, it is even considered holy!

It is believed that this figure exists since the 18th century during the Baroque period, when An Iberian votive deposit was found, depicting a holy Iberian warrior defecating on his falcata or sword. This started a polemic as to whether the find can be regarded as a proto-caganer or just a pre-combat ritual. However there is not an exact fact about this unfortunately, just theories.

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia
Dr. Caganer

 

WHY?

There are some other explanations about the origins of the caganer, which might be fun-mentioning here, just for sake of cultural knowledge:

*Humour

*For children’s fun time

*Representation of people’s equality (Really?)

*Representation of God being ready on his own time, not human’s time

…Yeah, quite amazing theories! (Thank you Wikipedia)

 

WHERE?

FIND ONE: Nativity scenes mostly and even at the malls! I found this giant one at Maremagnum Mall in christmas of 2010. I definitely had to photograph every part of it as you can see and understand. I tried to imagine the surprise of every tourist not knowing anything at all about this tradition…quite a fun surprise eh?

BUY ONE: At any christmas market or touristic spot, better during christmas season of course. You’ll recognize them easily. Most of them have a cost between 3 and 15 euros, depending on the size mostly. It’s certainly a very diverse experience as you get to see them everywhere, butt-naked, with the shitty spud under, quite clear and visible…I mean, you need to come and experience this yourself really. Unique!

 

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia
Giant Caganer during christmas time at a mall downtown in Barcelona, 2010.

 

AND WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

There is not only the defecating little human figure on the catalan tradition. There’s also the TIÓ DE NADAL.

Oh yes, and this is a log instead. A log dressed with the traditional catalan hat and a throw on its back, who shits the christmas presents on December 25th as kids sing a song and beat him/her/it with a wooden stick at the same time. Then kids shall go out to the garden, over the sun’s light heat the stick and come inside to sing some more. Suddenly the log is ready and all dirty…with presents under its throw!

You can find them in any size, from tiny to very very big log. Possible to buy them at christmas markets or any other places you will find along the streets and stores. Or you make it yourself at home. Quite special event for families indeed.

 

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia
Tió de Nadal: traditional catalan log under the tree who “shits” presents while its being hit repeatedly by children over a traditional song.

 

Hello christmas gifts :)

Christmas Traditions, Catalonia, Spain
Hitting with a stick the “Tió de Nadal” along a traditional song on December 25th for getting presents.

 

Yes, the catalan christmas traditions are totally scatological. And as surprising as it can be the 1st time, then you suddenly will be finding yourself with a stick in your hand and singing the song to the shitter log and looking for the shitter human figure in order to put it into your nativity scene at home.

Fun Fact: you can find ANY kind of caganer figure nowadays. You choose: Obama, the Pope, Messi or the traditional peasant figure. Anyone you pick, they will always bring fertility and good energy for the upcoming year!

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia
Homer-Caganer

 

So Happy Christmas & Happy Holidays! Or better said in catalan:

BON NADAL & FELICES FESTES!

Christmas Traditions: Caganer Catalonia, Spain
Nativity scene from our 1st new home in Barcelona, back in 2010.

 

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