There have been a few Top Comments diaries that have featured the Christmas traditions of various European countries. The ones that spring to my mind are two by Steveningen, one on Sinterklaas (and the controversial Swarte Piet) in the Netherlands, and another on the Krampus tradition in the Alpine regions. If there were others, they've slipped my mind.
This evening, I'd like to introduce another Christmas tradition from Europe, this time from Catalonia, the region in the northeastern corner of Spain. As any Catalan will tell you, Catalonia is not Spain. A long history of Spanish subjugation, and the attempt of Franco to obliterate their unique culture and language, have made the Catalans all the more enthusiastic in embracing their traditions while rejecting those of Spain. As such, they do not embrace the image of the old man with a white beard in a red suit so familiar in other parts of the world. Catalans consider Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, or whatever else you might wish to call him, a symbol of cultural imperialism.
No, Santa Claus is not who brings presents to children at Christmas. In Catalonia, it's the Caga tio that produces presents. In Catalan, Caga tio means "Shitting log." No, I'm not joking.
More details below the orange turd. However, beware: if you have delicate sensibilities, this might not be your kind of diary...
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Around the time of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Catalan families will obtain a log that's about a foot long, paint a face on one end, give it a couple of legs, a hat, and a little blanket (to keep it warm).
Every evening, the family "feeds" the log in anticipation of Christmas. On Christmas, or Christmas Eve, depending on the tradition of the particular family), the log is beaten with sticks and encouraged to shit.
The blanket is removed to reveal...a present! A commenter at Sullivan's blog says the following:
The tradition says that before beating the tió all the kids have to leave the room and go to another place of the house to pray asking for the tió to deliver a lot of presents. This makes the perfect excuse for the relatives to do the trick and put the presents under the blanket while the kids are praying.It may be that, traditionally, the tio doesn't leave larger presents, but in the youtube below, you will see a tio shit a toy in a box with shrink-wrap plastic on it. I wonder what it must have been like to pass that.
The tió does not drop larger objects, as those are considered to be brought by the Three Wise Men. It does leave candies, nuts and torrons. Depending on the part of Catalonia, it may also give out dried figs. When nothing is left to “shit”, it drops a salt herring, a head of garlic, an onion or “urinates”. What comes out of the tió is a communal rather than individual gift, shared by everyone present.
If that weren't enough, in their nativity scenes, Catalans hide a figure called the caganer, or "shitter," a figure of someone with his pants pulled down taking a dump. The challenge then is to try to find it in the scene. They love to make figures of famous people as caganers, including prominent politicians.
Yes, they've got W here, but they've also got Obama, and even the Pope. I suppose such figures serve to remind us that, no matter how rich or important or powerful or famous a person is, he or she is still a creature of the Earth, just like the rest of us.
You can see all of this, and more, about Catalan Christmas traditions in the youtube below:
Now, on to the comments!