If there’s something we Catalans are specially good at is at being different. We are too cool to celebrate Valentine’s Day, so we have our own and celebrate St Jordi (much better if you ask me). In our holidays, we gather and dance in circles, or we dress up as demons and run the streets throwing sparks to the people. But it that were not enough, we love human castles and eat (kinda) burned onions while wearing a bib. We are a fantastic country, with very special and original traditions. And, is there something more original than our Catalan Christmas?
The sense of humour in Catalonia
Even though Catalonia has been a part of Spain for several centuries already, today, many of the cultural differences between regions remain. And one of them is the sense of humor. Usually in Spain, there’s the concept that everyone in the South are super nice and friendly. And that we from the northeast are humourless asses. Yes, people from Andalusia (the South) are indeed very funny. I’ll acknowledge that. But we have another type of sense of humour. A sassier one, a more sarcastic one, for some, a British sense of humor. We are great at making fun of other people, but also of ourselves. And that’s something we have mastered in our Catalan Christmas.
An intruder on the Christmas Crib: Catalan Christmas version
The first “special” tradition I’m going to explain today is the “Caganer”. You will most likely know about it because in the past years it has started to become internationally famous. Just in case you dont, el Caganer is a small figurine of the typical Catalan peasant. In most Christmas Cribs, you have the barn with Jesus, Maria, Joseph, maybe some Kings, one or two angels and usually one or two peasants. In the last of these cathegories, you have the Caganer. As I say above, a simple peasant, but in a compromised position: his trausers are around his knees. I think that in this case, the beginning of the word Caganer it’s selfexplainatory: Caga, to poop.
It’s thought that initially, back in the 17th century, the Caganer was a symbol for prosperity and good luck for the following year (it was fertilizing the soil in any case…). But that was four centuries ago. Even though to this day this figurine is still accepted by the Church, the tradition has taken a new shape. Today, you can find anyone in the Caganer’s position. Angela Merkel is starting to be a classic here. But you can find absolutely anyone and anything you can think of: Trump, Obama, Darth Vader, a smurf, a Disney princes… Absolutely everything.
On a similar line: the Tió
A bit less naughty tradition, but also very typical for Catalan Christmas, is the Tió or Cagatió. Yes, it shares the “caga” with Caganer and now you’ll see why (no, we don’t have a weird fixation). The Tió is nothing but a log decorated with a painted happy face and a barretina (typical Catalan hat). Usually, it is covered in a blanket so it isn’t cold and kids feed it with the skins of fruit for several weeks before Christmas. Then, on Christmas Eve, all kids and adults gather around the Tió and sing a song while they hit the log with smaller sticks. In general lines, with the song, they are asking to the log to “poop” sweets and dried fruits while being threaten with more beaten.
Even though it may seem a bit agressive, usually a kid that has been feeding the tió for weeks, will take care of it and will only hit it softly. At the end of the song, one of the adults goes underneath the blanket and there a surprise laying there. The tió has pooped! It’s a beautiful tradition, and honestly, there’s not single kid that hasn’t loved its tió to death.
What do you think? Do you also have weird Christmas traditions in your hometown?
Please, tell me all about them in the comment section! I love to learn about these things!
And Happy Holidays!