Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas and Caga Tió

Figure 1. Caga Tió
There are many things I miss about Barcelona—the food, the beach, the barrel-like grannies who sideswipe you for a seat on the metro. But apropos to this time of year, I miss one of the most fascinating Christmas traditions I’ve ever encountered: The Caga Tió (the Poop Log).

Instead of leaving cookies for a round, jolly Santa plopping down the chimney, some Catalan families place a log (traditionally near the fireplace, but it could be elsewhere), which gets “fed” little snacks starting on December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), until Christmas. In modern times, this shit log stands on four legs and has a little smiley face drawn on one end. (See Figure 1.) The Caga Tió is covered with a blanket to keep it warm. The reason it's fed is so it will later “poop out” presents.

On Christmas Eve, or Day, the family serenades the Poop Log, invoking it to drop a load (of gifts) while hitting it with a stick to move things along. The song has several variations, one of which goes as follows:

caga tió,
caga torró,

avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé,
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!

Translated from Catalan as:

Poop Log
Poop out torrone (a Christmas cake)
Hazelnuts and cottage cheese
If you don’t poop good
I’ll hit you with a stick
Poop log!

Figure 2. Caganer.
The Catalan fascination with feces doesn’t end here. In their intricate and detailed nativity scenes, there's one figurine that stands out from the rest: the Caganer, or town shitter. This figure has pants dropped and is in the process of defecation (See Figure 2).

For all of you who think I’m smoking hectic weed, or that I’m just obsessed with excrement—you’re partly right! I do love a good poop story. However in this case what I say is true, as confirmed by the gospel (Wikipedia). To purchase your own poop log or town shitter, click here.

And, I’ll end this little lesson in culture (and caca) with an old Catalan saying:

Menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort!" (Eat well, shit strong and don't be afraid of death!)

Merry Christmas (Bon Nadal) and Happy Holidays (Bones Festes) everyone!