This is a post dedicated to all the catalan people spread around the world that is struggling to explain to their non catalan friends how catalan people spends xmas eve.
Struggling? Yes, you read correctly, because this is what happens to us when we get the question:how do you celebrate xmas eve in your country?
In our innocence, we decide to answer the truth: we make shit a log, we call it Caga Tió. We hit it with sticks and the log shits presents for us. And we do that in several rounds, so you get many little presents.
Hold on…this sounds like an extreme sport instead of a xmas tradition. Your friends might think that your English is not good enough, their thoughts might be on the line of: poor thing, so many years in England and no command of English. They smile, nod and think: well, this is a result of the sadness of not to be at home at this time of the year.
Well my friends, I have been there. Tragically, some years ago, it was really difficult to find a website that explained in English the beauty of our tradition. A website that backed up my explanations and avoided my shame. Now you can find a nice explanation in Wikipedia but is not as fun as mine!
Basically what we do in xmas eve is to decorate a log with eyes, nose and a red hat (called barretina). The log looks really cute and innocent it even has a name: Tió.
Picture 1. A traditional Tió
Historically, the log was empty inside and was filled with fruit during advent. In xmas eve, our ancestors had to hit Tió in order to get a piece of fruit get out from the logs bottom. Nowadays, the process is more sophisticated. Once all the family is together they sit on a circle with the Tió in the center, covered with a blanket. The kids go and hide in a room. Once the kids are out of sight, the parents hide some little presents under the log, like pencils, or sweets. Once its ready kids run into the living room, with broomsticks in their hands, and start to hit the log in order to make it “shit” in catalan we say “fer cagar el Tió”, the harder they hit, the more presents they get so, some kids might be pretty aggressive. At the same time kids hit the log, they sing songs. We Catalans are so creative that we have special songs to aid the Tió shit nice presents for us, see the video below for more info (BTW the comments on the video are not to be missed, lol):
Once the kids open the presents, they go and hide again, and the parents put some more presents under the Tió, and the kids are called again to go and hit the log and get some more presents. The presents are always small and preferably non fragile, just in case they get hit by mistake by an over excited kid.
And this is it, one of the most beautiful scatological catalan traditions together with the Caganer del pessebre (in English little shit maker), second part of this post.
To loop the loop I have to tell you about the Caganer del Pessebre (I like to translate it as little shitmaker). It is another typical character that appears every year in Catalan households. The tradition is to build a nativity every xmas. Hidden in every nativity can be found a man with a barretina having a shit, as simple as that, reason unknown. The fun is to go to someone’s place and look for the Caganer in their nativity. A xmas without a Caganer is not a real one, I love it!
Picture 2: typical caganer
Under no circumstances give as a present to your English friends a Caganer del pessebre. I did it and they did not take it well, they might still hate me. I had one Caganer in my desk at work, and the daughter of my boss was about to vomits when she found it by mistake. Only catalan culture can understand the beauty inherent in someone having a shit in your living room.
I am no psychologist so I don’t understand the reason behind our obsession for shit, shitmakers and shit logs. It might be that we are still stuck in the anal phase as a society. Or we might be more liberated, and happy to pass of all logical conventions. What is important is that we know how to have fun!
My message to non Catalan people that get a Caganer as a present: do not get offended for us it is a great present, and a privilege, there are Caganer collectors out there. It is an honor to get a Caganer as a present as shit is the symbol of fertility and growth so open up!
Well, I am open to any questions that you might have,
Merry xmas to everyone!