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Weird Christmas Traditions: Spain’s Caganer & Caga Tió

Weird Christmas Traditions: Spain’s Caganer & Caga Tió

The Caganer

If you saw a man defecating by your nativity scene you might call the cops. But in Spain’s Catalan region, placing a figurine of a man relieving himself next to the birth of the Messiah is considered good luck and not a sacrilege. (The giant defecating statue pictured above in a Barcelona Christmas market is just one example of how accepted this strange tradition is.)

This beloved Christmas tradition is called the Caganer, also known as the defecator. He is a figure seen in Nativity sets discharging his bowels a short distance from the Holy Family. 

The tradition is not considered a sacrilege -- in fact, the fecal matter is seen as a sign of good fortune and fertility -- after all, plentiful manure translates into fertile crops. Some theorize this form of good luck charm may have evolved from a practice dating back to the 18th century when farmers who couldn’t afford fertilizer were believed to have resorted to do-it-yourself techniques. 

It’s important to note that the Caganer is always located off in a corner. Having him drop a deuce front and center would be considered disrespectful. In fact, he is usually hidden at first and the children play a game Christmas morning of 'find the Caganer' in the nativity scene.

The tradition has become popular with Spaniards and foreigners alike – so much so that you can now find everything from traditional to novelty (such as Einstein, Mona Lisa and The Thinker) and even political and religious (including Buddha and Jesus) Caganer figures for your crèche at caganershop.com

The Caga Tió

Another tradition of the same region is the Tió de Nadal or Caga Tió, which translates to “poo log” in English. 

The Caga Tió has a smiley face painted on the front of the log and a traditional Catalan red hat similar to Santa’s. Kids look after the Caga Tió from December 8thuntil Christmas Eve by feeding it scraps of food. 

This pampering ends on December 24th, when a blanket is placed over the rear of the log (to give it privacy?) and the pooping segment of the tradition begins. The children hit the log with sticks and sing a song to make it poo presents for them, which usually consist of candy or a popular nougat turrón. Children usually must leave to pray after the beating so that parents can place candy under the blanket where the log was supposed to have relieved itself after all the children’s hard work. 

There appear to be a couple different versions of the Caga Tio song, usually about what is more desirable for the log to poo out. Here they are for your viewing pleasure: 

The Caga Tió Songs: 

Caga tió, (Poop log) Caga torró, (Poop turrón) Avellanes i mató, (Hazelnuts and cottage cheese) Si no cagues bé (If you don’t poop well) Et daré un cop de bastó. (I’ll hit you with a stick) Caga tió! (Poop log!)

Caga tió, (Poop log)  tió de Nadal, (Log of Christmas) no caguis arengades (Don't poop salted herring) que són massa salads (They are too salty)  caga torrons (Poop turróns)  que són més bons! (They are much better!)