NOTE: I wrote this article in 2016 for Clash Magazine, but since it’s no longer online I decided to share it with you here. Enjoy and Merry Shitmas!
Whether you think Christmas is shit or Christmas is the shit, when you are Catalan, your Christmas is going to be full of shit. And I mean literally. And no, it doesn’t get that dirty (usually).
“Hey, hold on! What the heck is a Catalan?” I hear you saying. In case that you don’t know Catalonia is a nation (ooops! We’re getting into political trouble here!) within Spain, located in the North-East of the Iberian Peninsula, just right under the Pyrenees in the South of France. Do you know Barcelona? Well, that’s our capital city. Maybe you’ve seen the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people peacefully asking to vote for independence, too. Our political prisoners, Spanish military police charging against innocent people… çjust your regular consolidated democracy. (OK, enough politics). The thing is that Catalans have their own language and also their own traditions. And buddy, believe me when I say that we have a couple of Christmas traditions related to turds and shit that you are going to LOVE.
Here comes the first one. Ready? Push!
The Caganer. What is a Caganer? We could translate it for Pooper. Here we usually set Nativity scenes with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the animals and also a lot of shepherds and Romans. We gather some moss from the woods (or buy it at local shops or street markets) and set up a beautiful diorama… and one of the figurines is that of a little guy taking a dump. No kidding. You can set it behind the barn or next to the Three Wise Men, there are no rules about it. How beautiful is that? I rember having fun as a child and changing its location everyday. I got creative and I tried to find a new place to set it: on the bridge, in the river, on top of the barn… I wouldn’t even think about setting my G.I.Joes in the Nativity because I already had my Pooper and WHAT CAN BE FUNNIER THAN A POOPER?
This used to be the figure of a shepherd, but popular characters are also being turned into poopers lately: Batman, Superman, TV stars… and (let’s get political again) also politicians. Of course, Hilary and Trump have been among this years bestsellers. The best part is that we don’t consider it as something nasty but funny and anybody can be eventually turned into a Caganer.
Now comes the second one. Ready? Push! Harder!
Do you remember the Log Lady from Twin Peaks? I’m sure she’d be delighted if she could hear about our next traditional item: the Tió or Christmas Log. It consists on a piece of wood in which you paint a face so it is more human, and you set it at home at the beginning of the Advent. You put a blanket on it so that it’s cozy and warm, and everyday you have to feed it by setting a plate with food in front of it. It has to be very well fed, because on Christmas Eve it is going to poop your gifts. And how do you do it? You make your children beat it with a stick. So yes, Catalan Christmas gifts are pooped by a Log-person. And we make our kids beat the shit out of him.
But hey, it doesn’t get as crude as it sounds! The kids sing a song while hitting, so that the bribe is cheerful and nice. There are many different songs around Catalonia, here are some of my favourites:
“Caga Tió / Poop, Tió
ametlles i torró / Almonds and turron (nougat candy)
no caguis arengades / Don’t poop herrings
que són massa salades / They’re too salty
caga torrons / Poop turrons
que són més bons / They’re yummier
Caga Tió / Poop, Tió
ametlles i torró / Almonds and turron
si no vols cagar / If you don’t want to poop
et donaré un cop de bastó / I’ll hit you with a stick”
“Caga Tió / Poop Tió
un bon cagalló / a nice turd
si no tens avellanes / if you don’t have hazelnuts
ni tens torró / nor turron
tira’t un pet / then fart
i que soni ben fort / and make it sound loud”
“Tió, Tió / Tió, Tió
Caga torró / Poop turron
si no tens més / If you have run out of it
caga diners / Poop some money
si no en tens prou / If you don’t have enough
caga un ou / Then poop an egg”
These Christmas Logs used to poop sweets and nuts (turron, a special kind of dessert is very popular everywhere in Spain), but nowadays it can poop any kind of gifts, so you may get your shit-iphone if you’ve been good.
In some homes, this tradition is carried along with Santa bringing the gifts, but don’t worry: as I said, we’re very peaceful people and we don’t take syncretism too far and we don’t beat the shit out of Santa. Or do we?
I hope, dear reader, that you found these stories as pleasant as sitting on the throne. They’re true, you can google them. I even linked a NY Times article above. So it’s no bullshit.