The pooping log and other poopers

I love the different traditions of different countries – they enrich us and help us see the world from different perspectives. In England, we have Christmas carols, flaming Christmas puddings and Santa delivers presents for kids to open on Christmas Day.

Here in Sweden, they like to do things a day earlier: so presents are opened on Christmas Eve, pickled fish is eaten and the highlights of the day are a visit from a real Santa and the devoted watching of cartoons (always the same ones every year – year in, year out) between 3-4 in the afternoon.

170px-caganer_frontThis got me to thinking about other traditions and took me back to my third year at university, which I spent in Spain. Or, to be more specific, Catalonia. Here, as in other parts of Spain and Europe, there is a very special, and unusual, down-to-earth and humourous figure, that always appears in the nativity scenes that the large cities display.

He is called the caganer – or pooper. (Yes, he is about to defecate in that cheery little picture!) The exact origin of the caganer is lost, but goes back to the 17th century, so it is not a new-fangled one.

Why the excrement in a holy scene? Why the – quite literal – holy crap? Well, that is also lost in the mists of time, but theories suggest that: it is funny, a symbol of fertility, and a reminder that God calls whenever we least expect it.

The caganer is much loved by adults and children alike, it seems!

150px-caganer_back2In fact, in 2005, the Barcelona City Council removed the caganer from the city’s nativity scene and caused mass protest. He made a welcome return the following year! (Apparently, you can even get a pooping figure of Obama this year to complete your nativity scene…)

While on matters fecal, I want to tell you about another poopy tradition – also in Catalonia (and Occitania). Let me introduce el Tío de Nadal or the Christmas Log (similar to the Yule log). This character comes from Catalan mythology and is more popularly known as Caga Tío – that’s ‘pooping log’ in translation.

150px-cagatioTraditionally, the log was just that: a log, albeit hollow. These days he is a much merrier fellow with stick legs, a face and a red blanket thrown over him to keep him warm.

You feed your hollow log every day from December 8, and then on Christmas Eve (in some parts) or on Christmas Day, you put him in the fireplace and beat the crap out of him … as it were.

That’s right – you feed him, and then he feeds you. You beat him gently with a stick and ask him to excrete a present for you and your family while you sing a special pooping log song. He poops out sweets, nuts, dried figs and torron (a kind of nougat). The gifts are not individual, but are shared by everyone.

When there are no more presents, el Tío excretes a salty herring, some garlic or an onion. In other words, something no one wants.

Except here in Sweden, of course.

There would be a bun fight over that herring!

As it’s THE big day tomorrow, I’m going to let you all take a well-deserved rest from my blog I’m going to take a rest from my blog.

Peace and joy!

rainbow_elam_31Thank you Dan Bush for this gorgeous photo!

24 thoughts on “The pooping log and other poopers

  1. No comments? Well, in that case let me be the first to say Merry Christmas! to you, and to all your hundreds of fans around the world.

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  2. Huh……sitting here after reading that and thinking…..huh….learn something new every day! Especially reading a blog like this!!! Thanks for the poopy lesson and have a very merry christmas and a joyous New year!!!

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  3. A post on poop 🙂

    I jumped over from Henry’s I saw your comment tucked in there 🙂 The book has much more in it than the blog, of course, but she has her reasons and at this point she’s my agent and is the one getting me published, so I have a tendency to listen to her. The blog is a lot different than the book; I used to write much more on the blog than I write now; all I have taken down is the stuff that’s direct parts from the book. The rest stays…

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  4. Very interesting…I love learning about traditions from other countries..even if they are a bit….ummm..Odd lol. I have enough little 4 legged crappers to need anymore!

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  5. Very interesting but very odd I must say…I wonder if the creators of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo on “South Park” are familiar with these traditions.

    Merry Christmas!

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  6. New reader here……I want you to know that from now on- every time I poop – I will think of this post. And while laughing, my family will be wondering why I find so much pleasure behind the bathroom door! I will have some explaining to do! LOL!

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  7. Ah the memories you bring here! My first year at the University of Salamanca I nearly died when I saw this little “tio” in the middle of the “belen” – the name of the crèche in Spain. What??? no one could tell me why he was there, but that he was, he was.

    No one at home could believe me either and in those days we did not have anything even remotely close to digital cameras. Apparently he is there to stay. Even today. Still no one knows why. Maybe to make us laugh, but the choice of places may seem a little…off (!) to those of the Christian persuasion? Happy Boxing day my dear lady Fi. And a very Happy and joyful New Year!

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  8. I am way behind, Sorry Lady Fi and Sir Pe, Hope you had a Merry Christmas! I love the pooping stories! Far Guy has a little reindeer that poops out jelly beans when you lift his tail! Thanks for sharing! I love the herring too! There were two of ours sneaking herring tastes before our Christmas Eve meal began:)

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