If you listen to our second podcast then you will already know what this post will be about.
If you don't listen to our podcast, then what's up? go listen to it! We are sooooo funny.
(and that sooooo wasn't.)
Any who, back to defecation. A bit of back story for you, each pod has a feature focused on art, it might be something happening locally, or a recent event. Sometimes, like Number two, it's on a random yet interesting trend, or piece. It just so happens that meadow muffins are a part of this week's topic.
Catalan at Christmas time is a fascinating, weird, and magical place. not only do they have the typical Christmas markets, and festive decor they have two very unique traditions. the first is an additional member of the Nativity, the Caganer. It translates as 'The Defecator' and this figure is part of the scene. Traditionally they look like this
but they are made into all kinds of other celebrities and famous figures. with the makers creating ones each year that are part of popular culture as well as classic ones.
The figures are part of a larger nativity scene, ones that far surpass the small ones we have in the states. They are similar to the Italian tradition of a Presepio. Both these traditions involve having an elaborate scene. While we are used to having some combination of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, wise men, and with a few farm animals strewn about. These scenes are of the whole town or the family home. The Nelson Atkins has a Neapolitan Presepio scene from the 18th century.
These scenes were highly valued by wealthy families and each year they would add to them and then show them off in an open house type viewing. each family trying to out do each other.
Back to Spain, eh.
The figure of the Caganer it usually tucked behind a building or a tree. He might be the star of this article but he is not the star of the Pessebre (nativity scene in catalán) He is a fun figure to place and children love to find where he is hiding, like a squatty, crapping where's waldo. Sarah Rainsford learned all about these figures and the artists who make them in a video for the BBC
"There was the legend that if a countryside man did not put a caganer in the nativity scene, he would have a very bad year collecting vegetables," explains Joan Lliteras, a caganer connoisseur. (BBC)
Other explanations for this little cow-plopping dude is that its is a symbol of fertility and good fortune. That this little figure is a playful bit of fun, and that it takes a faraway scene and brings it to our level, that it ground the nativity in realism. That the Caganer, with his unappealing stool, foreshadows the events that are yet to come. (the equally grotesque crucifixion) my favourite reasoning for him is by an unknown market seller who explains that 'defecation is the great leveller, a reminder that we are all equal.'
but if you think the Caganer is where the guano traditions in Spain stop, you'd be wrong, meet the Caga Tio, or Tió de Nadal, the log that poops gifts!
these cute AF little log hangs around the kitchen or near the fireplace and is fed by the children. it also had a blanket that is used to keep it "warm" and then is used to hid the "shit" in order to surprise the children. The children are to take good care of the Tio in the hopes that on Christmas Day it will "shit" presents. The method to get the Tio to shit is a bit wild, traditionally part of the log was put in the fire and then the log was beaten with sticks. A song was also sung while hitting the Tio. this is one example of a version of the song,
"Caga tió, shit, log,
caga torró, shit nougats (turrón),
avellanes i mató, hazelnuts and mató cheese,
si no cagues bé if you don't shit well,
et daré un cop de bastó. I'll hit you with a stick,
caga tió!" shit, log!
I don't know about you but I love these Catalan Christmas traditions. I love that instead of individual stockings the Caga Tio is a communal gift giver. what ever it poops is shared by the whole family. I will be adding a stop in Catalan to my German Christmas markets trip. I love finding the traditions that make a place unique and special. and these ones definitely fit that! My family loves to change up our traditions, while some families have the same meals on Christmas eve and Christmas day, My family picks something new to cook each year. One year we did seafood, last year was a traditional English roast, the year before was a Scandinavian smorgasbord. we love to try new things and it creates a lot of fun memories.
What traditions do you find interesting from other cultures and what traditions do you have that you love to do each year?