CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,
CharlieMC
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A Very Scat Christmas to You! The Caganer and Caga Tio of Catalonia

My friend Harini asnpersuasion83 mentioned an interesting and unusual traditon in this entry that has to do with a tradition in Catalonia that has taken place since at least the 16th century -- the inclusion of the caganer (quite literally translated as 'a shitter') as part of their nativity scene. In the home this little man is placed discreetly in the background of the manger (and I have a nice little YouTube clip I'll share that explains why). Children have fun hunting for and discovering him each year.

caganer 3

caganer 1

caganer 2

Plus an actual stamp featuring a caganer figurine:
caganer stamp

By the way, I have a few 'scat friends' who should find this whole thing really fascinating! (grin) Personally, I see no reason to find it too odd. To me there's something special about the humor and reality involved here. (And I have a hunch my dad would have loved hearing about this...)

Anyway, apparently last year (2005) it was decided that Barcelona's official Christmas display would not include a caganer. Hm. I wonder how well that went over?

I love that Catalans clearly know that to "cacaear" is a grand equalizer: "The king does it, the pope does it, you and I do it," says one Juan Rosa. To which can also be added Prime Minister Zapatero, Princess Letizia, Barca soccer players, Osama bin Laden, nuns, and priests (to name only a few). All who can be seen bottoms "al aire libre" -- "in the open air" -- at La Fira de Santa Lucia, the annual nativity fair which takes place daily in front of La Seu (Barcelona's cathedral). Caganers and other colorful Christmas crafts can also be seen at the yearly holiday fair in the park in front of the Sagrada Familia. Both fairs open around December first.

Though the tradition is to hide the caganer, I did find the following:
"We don't hide ours," says Joan Lliteras, the proud owner of over 600 caganers, and President of the Asociacio dels Amics del Caganers (Association of the Friends of Caganers). "We put our caganers in the front row."

The Association, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, is a group of 75-plus avid caganer collectors that includes doctors, lawyers, engineers, and economists. Lliteras and his board meet monthly to plan exhibits, and once a year they gather for a lively Christmas dinner where they elect "the caganer of the year", considered, of course, to be the highest of honors.

The caganer has long been so intertwined with Catalunya's nadal (Christmas) festivities, that the Roman Catholic Church, though they may not explicitly endorse its role in the nativity scene, has always looked the other way.

"It's a tradition that goes back generations," says Lliteras, "passed on from parents to children to grandchildren. The Catalanes may be a bit scatological, but we see no need to keep it a secret. Everyone does what the caganer does, after all."
How true! (grin)

You can read what Wikipedia says about the caganer here.

And another aspect of the Catalan scatalogical tradition is Caga Tio, who is a log-man that resides in the home from December 8 until Christmas Eve (or sometimes Christmas Day). For the record, it appears that this tradition varies somewhat from city to city and home to home -- but basically it has to do with a Yule log that's been made to resemble a man:

Caga Tio 1

Caga Tio 2

Caga Tio 3

And a child actually whacking Caga Tio with a stick during an outdoor festival:
Caga Tio - whack it at festival

I read here:

"The Christmas tree is not really Spanish," says Montse Vilarrubla, the Spanish teacher who took us on a tour round the Feria. "We've only really had them since the 60s. What's traditional is the crib and, here in Catalonia, the cagatio."

The cagatio is a log, with a face painted on it, wearing a barretina, the red hat of traditional peasant costume. On Christmas Day, it's hidden under a blanket and the kids beat it with a stick, singing a rather rude little song that asks it to -- if you'll excuse the expression -- "shit" presents. Pilar Diaz, the second Spanish teacher who came with us, explained that the scatological thing is in fact a serious symbol of fertility for the next year.


Some of the places I investigated seemed upset that this tradition of the cagatio shitting out small gifts was being replaced with really large presents (like PlayStations) in recent years -- and it is a bit more difficult to imagine the log pooping out something that big, isn't it?

I forgot to mention that there are numerous Caga Tio songs that are sung by the children during the beating with sticks. (I discovered one list of more than 20 songs!) Apparently each area and/or family has a song that's traditional...

So... is this at all like Santa, where little kids believe him to be real? Do Catalan children ever believe the log is actually alive, for example? Do they ever believe it really does shit out the gifts? I smile to think of it...

It used to be traditional to burn Caga Tio -- like a more common Yule log -- after he was done with his shitting task (grin), but because so few homes have fireplaces now, apparently that's a part of the tradition that's rarely done. (So what do they do with him? Can the same Caga Tio be used year after year, like an artificial Christmas tree, or what?) Curious...

You can read what Wikipedia says about the Caga Tio here.

I also went to YouTube and found a few videos that focus on both the caganer and Caga Tio, which I'll share under the cut. Some are documentary-style, with actual factual information -- while others are humorous in nature.

Remember that you need to click the 'play' button TWICE to view!

How to position the caganer discreetly:


Buying a Caga Tio:


An interesting caganer collection:


Caganers for sale at a fair:


All about Caga Tio (the accuracy is debated, however):


An 'interview' (humorous) with Caga Tio:


You learn something new (and interesting!) every day -- if you're lucky!
Tags: 2006, december-2006, scat-christmas
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