Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Caga Tio: A Catalan Christmas Tradition

Before moving to Barcelona, we'd heard more than once that the Catalonian's are a very scatological people. And we though, "Sure, who doesn't think poop is funny?" But the fascination / affirmation of feces goes well beyond fart jokes.

Imagine this scene, if you will:

We're at the Balcon.  It's mid-November and the subject of Christmas comes up.
"How does your family celebrate Christmas in the States," Pedro asks us in Spanish.
"We decorate a tree, wait for Santa, maybe go to church, the usual. What do you do in Catalonia?" we reply.

"We have a log we wrap in a blanket to keep warm, feed him oranges, and then he shits out presents for the kids.  He's called the "Shitting Uncle". Oh yeah, and you have to bang on his back to get him to shit. It's super fun," Pedro says with a straight face.

What?!  This is hilarious, but we can't laugh because Pedro isn't joking.  There must be something lost in translation, we think, so we just leave it at that.  But, it happens again. The same conversation with other Catalan friends.

"Caga Tio" or "Shitting Uncle" is the Catalan version of Santa Claus, the big ole fat, bearded man who slips down your chimney while you are sleeping.  Both I guess, are pretty bizarre.

The story of Caga Tio goes more or less like Pedro explained:

In early December, families head to the woods in search of the perfect, round log.  Once it's spotted, it must be quickly wrapped in a blanket, for it ceases to be just a normal log, it is now the magical Caga Tio.

At home, the kids dutifully feed their hungry log everyday for it will never poop out sweet treats if it does not get plenty of fiber.  Oranges are his favorite, but with a varried diet - nuts, berries and chocolate - there promises to be a wider array of gifts when he goes about business.

Finally, it's Christmas Eve.  The children gather around the log to begin hitting Caga Tio with a stick.  First, they hit lightly, but then swift and hard as they sing enthusiastically, 

"Caga Tio, Tio de Nadal
No caguis arengades,
que son massa salades
caga torrons
que son mes bons!
Caga Tio!

Or roughly translated,

"Shitting Log, Shitting log of Christmas!
Don't poop herrings,
for they are too salty,
Poop turrons (a sweet candy)
which are much better!
Poop, Man!

Spoiler alert: While the kids are singing (or praying at the window for Caga Tio to poop), grandma lifts up the log's blanket and puts gifts underneath. The children return for another rousing round of singing and log beating.  Then lo and behold, a miracle occurs! With a majestic bowel movement, the Pooping Uncle has turned those oranges and nuts into wonderful Christmas goodies!

We shit you not, nothing says Christmas like "pooping" in Catalonia.

But wait!
There's more scatalogical fun to be had.  Come back soon for the story of the "Carganet."


  1. Best. Blog Ever.
    Bonita Hart Andrews

  2. All those years at The Land, plenty of logs to be found, lots of children, Marty and BABA!!! Everything was there and we never knew about Caga Tio??? Hard to believe. December 2011 at The Land, Benvinguda Caga Tio!

  3. Hi Isabella! Tio it's a catalan word and it means log, tio means uncle in spanish...Lost in translation :) The poeing log...When I was a kid, the day before Caga tio I was so nervous!!!It was very exciting
    Visca Catalunya! I el cagatio i els caganers!

  4. we are so proud of you!!! ;)
    Xavi i Pau

  5. Thanks Nuria and Pau for giving us the Caga Tio y Carganet!