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Catalan folklore

El Caganer: an unusual Catalan tradition

Written by Paula

Walking in the streets of Barcelona, particularly those that have souvenir shops, you may have already stumbled upon a very unusual figure that made you stop, step back and take a second look: with his pants down and buttocks exposed, a man squats happily over his recently produced poop. It may surprise you to learn that this little fellow is actually an important part of Catalan tradition. El Caganer or “the shitter” is a ceramic doll wearing traditional Catalan clothes, that blesses people with a prosperous year.

Related article: Sant Jordi: the patron saint of Catalonia

How does poop equal prosperity?

Photo by Carlos Lorenzo via Visualhunt

The Caganer appeared at the end of the seventeenth century, beginning of the eighteenth, becoming one of the essential characters to be placed in the nativity scene. That’s right, the Caganer is a Christmas character that can be found in Catalan nativity scenes, just like Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. But the Caganer doesn’t feel the need to stand in the spotlight to be gazed upon like the sacred figures. He is more than happy to squat in a more private section of the nativity scene, where he can do his business peacefully.

“But what is the Caganer doing in a nativity scene in the first place?” you may wonder. Well, according to Catalan people, the Caganer is blessing the lands, fertilizing them with his miraculous feces. And though many people couldn’t care less about the fertilizing of lands since they don’t own any, the meaning of the Caganer is actually a metaphorical one. By fertilizing the lands, the little character is actually fertilizing the people’s future, bringing luck and prosperity to all those who place him in the nativity scene, and bad luck to those who don’t.

Whether people believe the Caganer will actually make a difference in their luck, people enjoy having him around the house because it makes them smile. Some parents do an excellent job of hiding the Caganer in the nativity scene so that the kids can have a good time looking for it.

A prominent figure in Catalonia

The Caganer has become such a prominent figure in Catalonia, that new versions of it started appearing. Today, you can find Caganers in the form of the Queen of England, former American president Barack Obama, Disney princesses, Michael Jackson, SpongeBob Squarepants, Frida Khalo, and even Star Wars’ very own Chewbacca.

But the Caganer’s popularity doesn’t stop there! This little Catalan man is doing a great job keeping up with the times and has even created his own Twitter account!

Related article: Interesting Catalan traditions

Where to buy a Caganer in Barcelona

Photo by _nur via Visualhunt

If you would like to buy a Caganer for yourself or to offer as a very original gift, visit one of the several souvenir shops in the Barcelona. There are plenty of them on Las Ramblas and inside the Gothic neighborhood. Another place where you can buy your Caganer is at one of the city’s annual Christmas markets. There are plenty of stalls that pop up in different neighborhoods during Christmas season, but the most popular and central of them all is the Fira de Santa Llúcia, which usually takes place in front of Santa Eulalia’s Cathedral, in the Gothic neighborhood. There, you will be sure to find a great variety of Caganers to choose from, in all shapes and sizes. If you would prefer to do buy your Caganer online, try El Racó del Caganer, where you will find a great variety of pooping figures, or even Amazon.es, where they also sell some versions of this funny little fellow.

Caga Tió, another Catalan pooping character

We could not end this article without mentioning Caganer‘s friend, the lovely and equally bizarre Caga Tió. If you appreciate the humor and quirkiness of the Caganer, then you will also want a Caga Tió of your own. Also known as the Catala Log, the Caga Tió is another traditional Catalan Christmas character who poops. The Caga Tió is a log decorated with eyes, a nose, a friendly smile, a pair of tiny legs and a traditional hat. People bring out the Caga Tió during December and have the children of the house cover it with a little blanket and “feed it” every night. On December 24th, the Caga Tió is brought into the living room and the kids beat him with sticks, while singing for him to poop them gifts like nougat and mató cheese. The children then leave the room and the parents place small gifts under the Caga Tió‘s blanket, which are then discovered by the children.

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El Caganer: an unusual Catalan tradition
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About the author

Paula

Paula is an experienced content writer, translator and editor.

1 Comment

  • I just love it !
    I want a El Caganer and start using it Christmas time.

    Thanks for the share Paula. Best Luck !
    Manuel Santos
    from Porto

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