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He’s a defecating log with an exuberant smile on his face. And he brings holiday joy to Catalan children every Christmas.
I don’t really quite remember the exact moment when I heard about the peculiar Catalan tradition of the Tió de Nadal (Christmas log), commonly called the Caga tió (pooping log). I’m sure that it took awhile for me to process it all: a log becomes personified, and his excrements take the form of small holiday gifts.
Found in Christmas fairs and shops around Catalonia during the holidays, the caga tió is a piece of lumber with eyes, nose, a smile, and wears a traditional Barratina hat. He’s perched on two sticks as front legs.
Every year starting on December 8 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception), children save their leftovers from meals like fruit or orange peel for the cheerful log to eat. He is also covered with a blanket so that he doesn’t get cold at night. With so much food, he’ll have enough to produce “poop”, that is, small gifts for the children. On Christmas Eve after dinner, excited kids gather around the tió. With sticks, they beat the log while singing a tradional song.
One of the many caga tió songs (from Wikipedia):
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
shit nougats (turrón),
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
By chanting this, they’re encouraging the log to “poop” presents under the mysterious blanket. Then the children are asked to go in another room. Or, an adult peeks under the blanket to see if the tió had a lovely bowel moment. And out comes a gift — they’ll see candy, nuts, torron (nougat), and/or other small toys. Ain’t no party like a poop party.
At the Christmas Fairs
While these are by no means traditional caga tiós found in homes, below are a few varying figures are on display at the Christmas markets. (Excuse me, but my eyes have still been feasting on all the holiday goods.)
These small caga tió’s are devouring some grapes before the Big Day.
Baby caga tiós — with their own pacifiers.
Bite-sized caga tiós.
Hipster caga tió…with a pipe!
A caganer, which is a caga tío. A double defecating Catalan Christmas icon!
Caga tió faces to adorn your refrigerator.
And pencils, of course. We need caga tió pencils!
California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).
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