Archive for January, 2009

Cacadad 2008


A few days before Christmas, I was talking with my friend Risa via AIM about two curious Christmas traditions they have here in Catalunya (Catalunya being the province of Spain in which Barcelona is located). One is the Caganer (pictured left), the official Christmas Pooper, placed in every home nativity scene. Please note his squatting stance and the fact that, had I taken this picture from the side, you would see plastic piles of pooh directly beneath his exposed buttocks. (I am, of course, referring to him singularly, even though there are multiple figurines in this picture.) The other tradition is Tió de Nadal (pictured below). A log covered in a blanket (Tió in Catalan means ‘log’). Children ‘feed’ him for a few days before Christmas, and then, on Christmas they ceremoniously beat him with a stick as they sing songs ordering him to “poop” out gifts:


caga torró,avellanes i

mató,si no cagues béet

 daré un cop de

bastó.caga tió!”



poop log,

poop turrón, hazelnuts

and cottage cheese, if you don’t

 poop well,
I’ll hit you with

 a stick,
poop log!


I was immediately fascinated by this Catalan fixation with poop and Christmas. Why have a little man pooping near the nativity? Why hit a log to get him to poop? I began asking the Spanish people around me about these traditions, I searched for answers on that end-all be-all source for information: Wikipedia. Then, I started sharing the traditions with my American friends.

While I learned both traditions are hundreds of years old, dating back to the 16th century at least, it was difficult to find a concrete answer to the question: Why? For the explanation of the Caganer, I heard a lot about how he is a political statement, a constant reminder of the need to “poop” on the accepted order, the status quo. I heard about how he was meant to “humanize” Christmas, make the story of gods and miracles more accessible to the huddled masses, reminding us that all of us, even the baby Jesus, shit.

 So it seems that it’s all just in good fun. Really silly, pretty gross, fun– another example of the age old truism that in this world of wars, and violence, and all sorts of other despicable things, we all just need to laugh.  That even during the celebration of what many believe to be the holiest of nights and one of the most significant moments in human history, that we still just need to laugh. You know, loosen up.

 The Tió de Nadal, on the other hand, confounded me for quite awhile. I mean, wasn’t the Caganer enough of this caca silliness? Why two symbols of poop? Why have a child hit a log with a stick? It just seemed too obscure to me, until I asked Sandra (the house-keeper, cook, nanny and overall wonderful woman that works for the people I live with).  Her answer showed me that far from being just a strange, borderline absurd tradition, that this Tió figure was actually pure genius:

 It’s to keep the children (the crazy, excited, running around, screaming, children) occupied! What could be better for releasing pent up energy and excitement at potentially boring family gatherings then hitting the crap out of something with a stick? Brilliant.

As I mentioned before I was speaking with Risa about these traditions. “Wow, they sure like poop a lot,” she told me. To which I responded, “Yeah, they should call it ‘Poopmas.’”  But Risa, being the hilarious person she is, did me one better: “Cacadad!”

So, everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful Cacadad!


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So I have had the last month completely off from school, and, one would think, this would leave me with more than enough time to successfully keep up this blog. Yet, somehow, and I’m still not even really sure how, it seems that during my past month of “Freedom,” I have been busier than I was during the two previous months.


I have been in Spain for almost three months now. The time has gone unbelievably fast. In this time I have made a mountain of friends, procured the ability to hold basic level Spanish conversations, been really, really cold, and more and more and more. It’s been a very amazing experience so far, one that I am very grateful I undertook. I can feel myself expanding, opening up, becoming freer. But, all of that, I think I will leave for another entry (or maybe even another blog) because right now I want to write about the Christmas season in Barcelona.


Spanish people love their holidays, and they love getting together during these holidays. There were about 6 occasions for large family dinners over the past 3 weeks.  Actually, it’s the norm in Spain that families stay very close to one another. Children even continue living with their parents into their thirties. It’s a different attitude from that of a lot of Americans. Of course, there are pros and cons to each, but I have enjoyed being a part of it here. I think there is definitely something almost magical in a big family gathering where everyone is laughing, drinking wine, even singing.


Christmas eve was really nice, with the exception of watching the preparation and consumption of an entire suckling pig. Head, tail, feet, and all (Only his head and tail were cut off and put next to him in the over so they whole thing would fit) His name was Pepito (pobresito) and everyone thought he was delicious. I proposed a moment of silence for him (jokingly of course) and did, in fact, try him. Pork is pork, after all, whether you see the head and feet or not. Gerardo enjoyed teasing me about the pig. It was a good time.


On Christmas day, I was not woken up to the excited shouts of the girls opening their presents. Instead, it was a more low-key affair. Santa had only come to Grandma’s house, where we went and had Christmas lunch and exchanged some gifts. The next day, Dec 26th, was also a holiday which is celebrated in Catalunya, St. Sebastian.  Celi explained to me that this is because Catalan people are very practical—the 25th they spend with the maternal side of the family, and 26th is spent with the paternal side. Y esta. No arguments, no complicated plans. But this, of course, required another family get together. 🙂


I’m going to end this here and write another entry about the holidays in a couple of days, there is just so much too this. (For homework, please, look up the Caganer and Tío on Wikipedia).  More on that soon, and the Day of the Kings!

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