Christmas in Barcelona: Catalan Strange Traditions

“Bon Nadal i Feliç Any Nou!”

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”!

If you are one of the lucky ones spending Christmas in Barcelona then you’re gonna need a road map. Not only to get you to all the parties, festivals and events but to navigate the local and, quite frankly, strange Catalan Christmas customs.

Here in our blog, Be Local Tours will be giving you the low down on all there is going on over the festive period in the city. And if you want to find out more, we always include the history of Catalan Christmas Traditions in our Free Walking Tour of the Gothic Quarter.

So, let’s start with…well, the bizarre and meet the Caga Tio and the Caganer!

The Caga Tio

When you head to the Christmas market in Plaça Nova (New Square) you’ll see lots of logs with smiley faces, wearing the traditional red Catalan hat – the Barretina. He’s the Caga tió. Tió means log and caga… well, it actually means “poop”. Pretty weird name, right? Let’s see what this is all about.

There is one Caga Tio in every Catalan house. Starting every 8th December children cover the log with a blanket to make sure he is warm and they “feed” him every evening. Parents make sure the food prepared for the the tio magically disappears during the night. This is to ensure that he is nice and full so he will poo out lots of treats on Christmas Eve!

On Christmas Eve, dessert comes courtesy of Caga Tió. The children are given a stick with which they hit the Caga Tió. While joyfully beating the poor piece of wood they sing a special song:

 

“Caga Tió avellanes I torró

Si no vols cagar

Et donanem un cop de pal.”

 

“Poo log hazelnuts and turron

If you don’t want to poo

We will hit you with a stick”

 

The children then reach inside the Caga Tio’s blanket and find sweets and small toys. Similar to the sorts of treats that children receive in their stockings from Santa Claus.

The Caganer

Have you had enough of poop-related tradition? Sorry for you, but it’s not over! Strolling through the Christmas markets in Barcelona, you will also find the Caganer.

The Caganer is another typical Catalan Christmas figure. As the Caga Tio, he has the typical barretina, the Catalan Hat and he is smoking the pipe. Since the Middle Ages, Catalans put this little statue in the Nativity Scene, a representation of the Holy Family in the manger the night that Jesus was born.

What’s quite appalling is that the Caganer is actually nothing more than a pooping guy in a crouched position, with some excrements under his bottom. We are not joking, this is a very widespread and important tradition for the Catalans. Christmas in Barcelona is full of strange surprises.

What is the meaning of the Caganer? There are different interpretations on its true nature: a ritual to bring good fortune, a popular response to the fixed representation of the christian dogma of the Holy Family, a fertility symbol. No one knows for sure.

This is not just a Catalan tradition. Similar representation of a pooping fellow are present in Murcia, Naples and Portugal, with different names of caconespastore che caga and cagoes.

Wanna buy a Caganer? Go to the Christmas Market in Placa Nova, next to the Cathedral and it will easy to find one! The market, called La Fira De Santa LLucia, is open everyday until the 23rd of December. Opens at 9.30 and closes at 20.30. On Saturday and Sunday the Market closes one hour later, at 21.30.

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