"Poop log. Poop turrón, hazelnuts and cottage cheese. If you don't poop well, I'll hit you with a stick. Poop log," sing the children in Barcelona, Spain, while whacking a life-size log with sticks.
No, this is not some topsy-turvy land at the bottom of a rabbit hole; it’s the present day in the capital of Spain’s Catalunya region. In front of the city’s cathedral, the oldest, largest and most beloved holiday market, Fira de Santa Llúcia, is in full swing.
The painted face log wearing a red and black cap (barretina), smoking a pipe and receiving a whooping from school children is one of the most curious of Christmas characters: Caga Tió.
Made out of the trunk of a tree, the Caga Tió (literally ‘poop log’ in Catalan) arrives in a family’s kitchen just after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. During the two weeks before Christmas Day, the children of the home feed Caga Tió things like fruit and nuts.
As Christmas Day approaches, an increasingly plumper Caga Tió makes its way from the kitchen to the living room. On Christmas Eve, resting comfortably in the living room, Caga Tió receives a final feeding and a blanket is draped over its backside.
The following morning the children wake up hoping that Caga Tió has left them gifts. They give him a quick whack with some sticks, accompanied by a song, and the blanket is removed to reveal goodies for the whole family. Treats like candies, fruits and small gifts. Larger, individualized gifts are brought to children by the Three Wise Men on Kings’ Day, January 6th.
The Caga Tió is not the defining defecating holiday character in Catalunya. There is also the Caganer, a small porcelain figure with his pants down and a small pile of poo behind him. He is often hidden within a nativity scene. This puzzling persona is rumored to have come about during the mid-18th or 19th centuries. In recent years though, the Catalan government has banned him from official manger displays.
What’s with all the crap in Catalunya on Christmas? Good question.
While uncovering the exact origins of these craptastic curiosities requires more research, NOTHING makes for a more original souvenir from Catalunya than a Caganer or a mini Caga Tió — as an added detail with the Caga Tiós I have gifted, I created small scrolls of paper outlining the log ritual.
As for the Caganer, with each passing year different newsmakers are converted into Caganers. This year saw the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge immortalized as Caganers. Previously U.S. President Barack Obama had the privilege. And even pop stars, like Shakira, can be found in squatting position, ready to liven up a nativity scene near you.
Travel tip shared by wanderlustwrtng