Howdy Ho Misfits, on this week's episode of the Misfits and Mysteries Podcast (coming out this Thursday) Emmy and I took a look at some of the weirdest Christmas traditions from across the globe. Naturally I was drawn to the region of Catalan Spain’s obsession with Christmas poop. While it might not be Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poop, the Catalans sure love their poop around Christmas time.
Here are two weird poop related Christmas traditions celebrated in Catalan.
1. Caga Tio (The Poop Log)
In the Catalan region of Spain during Christmas time it’s customary to feed a log with a painted on face and red hat your food scraps and in return he poops out christmas presents. Yes you read that right, rather than Santa Claus bringing the good boys and girls of Catalan presents, they sing songs about poop and beat a log with a stick until it poops out treats. The Caga tio is a real log that has a happy face painted on one end, normally has 2 front legs made out of twigs and wears a traditional Catalan red hat called a barretina.
On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Spanish families bring out the Caga Tio, and children excitedly wrap it in blankets and palace it under the Christmas tree and care for it like a real living pet. Between December 8th and December 24th, the children feed Caga Tio food scraps to fatten him up and make him a happy log. Finally, on Christmas Eve, it’s time for the Caga Tio to give back. After feeding him his last meal, children go into the other room and pray, while their parents cover up the log (and presumably fill it with goodies). I’m no expert on the biology of logs but I’d hazard to guess feeding a log leftover food scraps does not cause it to naturally poop out presents. Then the children come back into the room and quite literally beat the shit out of the Caga Tio until it’s finished pooping out presents, all the while singing songs about poop.
I have included two english translations of songs children sing while beating Caga Tio.
Log of Christmas
Don’t poop salted herring
They are too salty
They are much better”
Hazelnuts and Mato Cheese,
If you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick
After you’re done beating the crap out of Caga Tio, and singing poop related songs, you can collect all of the wonderful presents he has pooped out for you. The Caga Tio is usually stuffed with wonderful goodies such as Turron which are a nougat like candy, sardines, or herring. Between the food scraps and loose pieces of fish shoved up Caga Tio’s butt this thing must smell disgusting. Finally, once you have collected all of the goodies stashed away inside of Caga Tio, you throw him into the fire. Seems like a cruel end to the poor logs life, but probably cleanses that awful stench he must be giving off.
Although the Caga Tio is a beloved tradition in Catalan, not much is known about how it transitioned from a pagan bonfire to a pooping log. The origins of the Caga Tio are pretty difficult to trace, however, thanks to some great journalism from NPR’s Lindsay Patterson, we have a pretty good idea of how the tradition started. The Caga Tio is the remnants of a pagan tradition that originated in rural villages of Catalan during the winter solstice celebration. During this celebration, the Catalans would choose a large tree trunk to use for a winter long fire to honor it as Tio de Nadal. At some point, this tradition evolved into one where families would find a log in the woods, cover it in blankets and burn it on Christmas Eve. No one quite knows when it turned into a celebration of a pooping log, however, it is a major part of Christmas in Catalan.
2. El Caganer (“The Shitter”)
The next equally strange poop related Christmas tradition in Catalan is El Caganer, which literally translates to “the shitter.” El Caganer is traditionally a small figure of a man wearing peasant clothing and a traditional red barretina hat. He is depicted in a squatting position with his pants down so you can see his butt and behind him is a little pile of poop on the ground. It’s tradition to place The Shitter in the nativity scene and move him around every day so the children can play a little game of hide and seek. El Caganer is seen as a sign of good luck and is actually bad luck not to have one.
Although adding a shitting man to a nativity scene could be viewed as sacrilegious, there is actually a very logical explanation for him. El Caganer first arrived on the scene between the late 17th and early 18th century during Spain's Baroque period. While he might seem like just a prank, El Caganer actually has some cultural significance. This poop bandit originated in a very agricultural region of Catalan, where poop (or in this case fertilizer) was essential to the prosperity of the region. El Caganir is supposed to fertilize the ground of the nativity scene and bestow you with health and peace of mind the following year.
I hope you enjoyed learning about poop and Christmas in Catalan. Make sure to check out our weird Christmas traditions from across the globe episode coming out this Thursday anywhere you listen to podcasts.
As always, stay spooky misfits.