Usually, on the 25th of December Catalan people will eat a broth like sopa de galets or la carn d’olla, both made with generous amounts of meat.
But stars of the Catalan Christmas food are the sweets. The most popular ones are polvorones, a type of almond cookie that crumbles inside the mouth, turrónes, thick nougat tablets, and tortel de Reyes, a round pastry with a hole in the center, filled with Catalan custard or marzipan and covered in crystallized fruits and dried nuts.
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Related article: Catalan Christmas dish: ‘galets’ soup
The amusing and unusual characters
While the nativity scene is something that can be found in many houses across the world, there is one little character that only be found in Catalonia, Valencia and Andorra: the Caganer. This colorful ceramic figure presents a man who is squatting, with his pants down and bare buttocks, while a small pile of feces rests right below him. The man is dressed in traditional clothes, wearing a white shirt, a black vest and a red bonnet.
The Caganer is said to represent prosperity, by defecating on the land, he fertilizes the fields for the coming year. It has become such a famous figure, that it can now be found year long in several stores in Barcelona. There have even been created other versions of the Caganer, depicting famous people like Barack Obama, the Queen of England, Bono from U2, Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and much more.
But this is not the only strange part of the Catalan Christmas tradition. There is another character that makes his appearance on December 8th, staying until Christmas Eve. The Tio de Nadal or Caga Tió is a small log with a friendly face and a red bonnet that can either be made at home or purchased. The Caga Tió (Poo Log) is covered with a blanket and fed by the children every night. When the children go to bed, parents hide Caga Tió’s food, so the kids think the log has eaten them. On Christmas Eve, the children sing a song and hit Caga Tió with sticks, enticing him to poop out presents for them. After the song they reach under the blanket and discover small presents.
Many people’s idea of the Christmas season is of cold and snowy weather, and although it is nice to see snow outside, it is also nice to able to step outside and hang out in the sun. Barcelona is a very sunny city where it only rains a very small number of days a year, so if you are coming to Barcelona during the holiday season, you have a great chance to spend a sunny Christmas.
The lovely Christmas markets