The Catalan Christmas season is a very particular and traditional time of year, full of unique little characters. One of those characters is the Caganer, a ceramic figure representing a man dressed in typical Catalan clothes, with his pants down and exposed buttocks, squatting over his newly produced poop. As strange as it may sound, the little fellow is placed in Catalan nativity scenes as a way to bring luck and prosperity for the following year.
But what about the Caga Tió?
If you have walked in the center of Barcelona during Christmas season, chances are you have already spotted this happy character staring at you from a variety of windows. The Catalan log, known in Spain as Caga Tió or Tió de Nadal is literally a log to which people add eyes, a nose, a mouth, two small legs and a traditional Catalan hat. It is a cute little character who people easily grow fond of.
But don’t get to attached to a Tió de Nadal, because before Christmas is over, you will be spanking that merry log for gifts! Need to read that again? We’ll give you a minute.
The Tió de Nadal is usually placed in the living room, so everybody can interact with it. The family covers the log’s body with a small blanket, so it remains cozy and warm during the Christmas season. During the month of December, the log is fed by the children, who believe it is actually eating the food they leave out for him since their parents remove the food from sight during the night or leave some of it out but with bite marks on it.
It all sounds nice and harmless but the 24th is not a particularly happy day for this beloved family mascot. The happy little log is placed by the fire and the ceremony begins. Each child is given a stick so that they can hit the log, demanding that it poops out presents for them as they sing the traditional Caga Tió song: Caga Tió, Caga torró, avellanes i mató, si no cagues bé, et dare un cop de bastó, Caga Tió! The song can be roughly translated to “Poop log, poop nougat, hazelnuts and mató cheese, if you don’t poop right, I’ll hit you with a stick, Poop Log!”
After beating the friendly figure while singing the song, the children run out of the room. That is when the parents place small gifts, nougat and other sweets under the Caga Tió’s blanket. Though the official gift giving day in Spain is Dia de los Reyes, on the 6th of January, some families have started using the Caga Tió ceremony to exchange their Christmas gifts.
When the night is over, some families put the log away to be used again the following year, while others, in a bizarre twist, throw the log in the fire.
Where to buy a Caga Tió
You can find Christmas logs for sale almost anywhere during the Christmas season. The best place to buy them if you want to have a lot of different Caga Tiós to choose from, is at the Christmas markets that pop up on the main squares in the city every single year. Fira de Santa Llúcia, which usually takes place in front of Santa Eulalia’s Cathedral, in the Gothic neighborhood, is the largest and most popular Christmas market in the city, where you will be able to find pocket-sized Caga Tiós, all the way to large, novelty Caga Tiós, so big that you will have trouble finding a place for them in your house.
If you can’t make it to a Christmas market or prefer to purchase your Caga Tió online, visit ViveFiestas, a costume store that sells Caga Tiós in three different sizes. Another good option is El Tió Bufo which not only sells Caga Tiós in all shapes and sizes but also sells Caga Tió magnets, Caga Tió accessories, and special-themed Caga Tiós.
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* Main photo by restaurante kaialde via Visualhunt