It’s Navidad time here in Barcelona (aka Xmas to us North Americans), and of course that means many, many days off for the Spaniards. For example, I am at the tail end of a 5 day weekend. Which would be great if I were working and if anything was actually open. But other than quite a few street markets selling jamon, antiques, and yes, Xmas stuff, the pickings are slim.
Usually I am not one to acknowledge this time of year other than to make fun of what a scrooge I am and to let others berate me because of my generalized annoyance at all things referencing this holiday. Which I enjoy, by the way.
Take for example the Xmas tree my father made for me last year. Tumbleweed, spray painted black. Cardboard and duct tape base. I think this is an accurate reflection of my spirit of Xmas.
That being said, there are a couple of traditions here I like because they either a) are slightly obscene or b) rather violent and slightly obscene. Thusly, I find them pardonable.
First we have the crapping log (El Caga Tió). This is a log with a face and hat that children beat with a stick while demanding and threatening it to shit turrons (sickeningly sweet nougat, served up in slab form), cheese and hazelnuts. For real, those three things. They even have a song in Catalan that goes like this:
Caga tío, (crap, log!)
caga turró, (crap torrons,)
avellanes i mató,( hazelnuts and cheese,)
si no cagues bé (if you don’t crap well)
et daré un cop de bastó (I’ll give you a smack with a stick.)
¡caga tió! (so crap, log!)
The log wears a blanket and is beaten by children while they sing. Then the blanket is removed to reveal the treats and shared among those present. In some versions of this event the log is then thrown into the fireplace and burned.
Here is a stack of smiling logs awaiting their fate at a market.The second tradition has to do with the Nativity scene, which most households build. These consist of more than the baby Jesus and a handful of holy rolling onlookers. These are a full blown affair with hills, lakes, barns with animals, farmers, and abundance of food being prepared and it is all quite realistic, for example you can buy farmers slitting the throats of pigs on tables, complete with a pool of blood on the ground. Or toothless old ladies spinning yarn. Or ironmongers hammering horseshoes. The choices are endless.
Or, you can create a more bible oriented nativity,set in the desert, complete with elephants, camels and chariots. In any nativity you’ll find devils, angles; usually a priest or two.
But in any Nativity, there is always a Caganer. This translates to “shitter” and it is exactly that: some dude taking a poo right in the nativity. Yep. And there are lots to choose from. From traditional Catalan figures to famous people to politicians to cartoon characters.
But it gets better. Not only is the Caganer squatting with pants down, he (or she) always features a pile of poo just under the naked, protruding rear. (Click here to view other celebrity caganers, or buy one for your own nativity. Or whatever.) And sometimes, perhaps it’s a charming new trend, a nativity also features a Pixaner, which translates quite simply to “pisser”.
You can bet my mom will be receiving a Caga tio, a Caganer and a Pixaner for Xmas. They will be added to her Xmas decorations, along side her Incredible Hulk snorkle that decorated her tree last year.
Because nothing says Christmas like poop.