Wait… was that last word a misprint? It isn’t if you live in the region of Catalonia. For some strange reason, the holiday season brings out traditions in the region around Barcelona, Spain that appear to have been written by pre-pubescent boys. Celebrating Christmas in Catalonia includes adorning the nativity scene with a pooping man and using sticks to whack a pooping log.
As already detailed in this article, Catalonian nativity scenes are blessed with an extra witness to Jesus’s birth. In addition to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and an angel, you will find the Caganer. This strange addition to the sacred scene is a little squatting, pooping man. The Caganer’s origins are a matter of some debate, but his presence is certainly attention-grabbing.
If you think the Caganer is odd, then hold on to your hats (and the other end of your body). Catalonians also ring in the holiday season by encouraging children to satiate their bloodlust through extortion and threats of inflicting great bodily harm on a piece of pooping tree. Or perhaps it’s all a bit of harmless fun. It’s up to you to decide.
The Tió de Nadal translates in English as the “Christmas Log.” Don’t mistake it for the Yule log, a traditional Christmas dessert. The Tió de Nadal (known simply as “Tió” or “Caga Tió” is a big piece of wood cut from a tree, decorated with a face, and given peg legs.
Caga Tió shows up on December 8, and it is the responsibility of the children to take care of him until Christmas Eve. Taking care of Caga Tió means keeping him warm by covering his backside with a blanket and feeding him turrón (a type of nougat, made of sugar, honey, and egg whites) and orange peels every evening. Feeding is vitally important because the more he is fed, the more presents he will give to the children on Christmas.
So far, this sounds like a charming little tradition, much akin to the Elf on a Shelf. Here is where the tradition takes a peculiar detour. Caga Tió delivers his presents by pooping them out. Not content to encourage this unorthodox manner of Christmas present delivery with a mild laxative, children entice Caga Tió to deliver by singing a song and whacking him with a stick.
There are many versions of the song. A common one, with more family-friendly lyrics, together with its English translation is:
Avellanes i pinyons,
No caguis arengades
que són massa salades!
que són més bons!
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
Poop out turrón,
Hazelnuts and pinenuts.
Don’t poop out herrings;
They are too salty!
Poop out turrón.
They are much better!
Poop out turrón,
If you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick!
If you wish to sing along with this festive children’s song, you can listen to it in the video below. Be forewarned… After spending the better part of an hour listening and trying to accurately capture the Catalan lyrics, the staff at the Linguistics Department of Commonplace Fun Facts has the song stuck in our heads like an earworm, making us wish for the merciful touch of Death’s mysterious hand and wanting to whack more than just a clownishly-dressed log with a stick.
According to tradition, before the children descend with greed-filled bloodlust upon the unsuspecting Caga Tió, they are supposed to go to another room to pray. Whether they are supposed to pray for good gifts or seek absolution for the merciless beating they are about to inflict is uncertain. What is clear is that the children’s momentary absence from the room gives adults a convenient opportunity to slip some presents under the Caga Tió’s blanket.
The gifts that emerge from Caga Tió’s generous colon tend to be small, such as candies, nuts, and small toys. Presumably, anything larger would require a proctologist in addition to the stick-wielding children. Delivery of the larger gifts is relegated to the Three Wise Men.
An unusual custom? Perhaps, but everyone seems to enjoy it. All things considered, it’s better than the Icelandic counterpart, where children live in mortal terror of being eaten by sadistic Christmas trolls.