Updated November 2016
THE TIÓ DE NADAL
The Tió is a much-loved Catalan tradition used to celebrate the Christmas season. It’s a log that is given human physical features, such as eyes, eyebrows, legs and a nose. It’s wrapped in a blanket for warmth and is crowned with the traditional Catalan barretina. The whole family customarily comes together before the beginning of the Christmas season in order to create the Tió.
The Tió is cared for by Catalan children in the weeks leading up to Christmas. From December 8th, his behind is wrapped in a blanket and he’s fed orange peels and turrón (a type of Spanish nougat) every evening. It’s thought that the more the Tió is fed, the more presents or Christmas goodies he’ll excrete from his behind come Christmas day.
El Tió needs some persuasion to drop his load on the big day, so the children of the household are given sticks in order to beat him into delivering his many festive offerings. While beating the Tió, Catalan children traditionally sing a song—the words may vary from town to town, but the tune stays the same. A typical version goes like this: ‘Caga tió, caga torró, avellanes i mató, si no cagues bé et daré un cop de bastó. Caga tió!’ This translates literally as: ‘Shit log, shit turrón, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick. Shit log!’
The caganer is a small, defecating figure associated with Christmas. The caganer is a tradition not only in Catalunya but also in other areas of Spain, Italy and Portugal. The typical Catalan caganer is squatting with his trousers around his ankles. He wears a red barretina and is often reading a newspaper or smoking a pipe.
The tradition of the caganer is believed to be over 300 years old. An Iberian votive offering, which depicts a holy warrior excreting, has been discovered near Tornabous in the Urgell and can be dated back to the early 18th century. Originally, the caganer was a necessary figure in the nativity scene. He was thought to bring good luck and happiness to the family, and his fecal droppings were a symbol of wealth and the promise of a productive new year.
The caganer's still often placed within the Catalan nativity scene today. Local nativity scenes generally depict the entire town of Bethlehem and the caganer is usually found crouched in an obscure corner.
- The Queen of England, Rafael Nadal, George Bush, Spiderman and many others have all been made into caganers.
- In December 2010, a 19-foot, 8.22-inch caganer was placed in the Maremagnum Shopping Centre. This gargantuan figure grabbed the Guinness World Record for Largest Caganer.
- One early caganer scene depicts a wife waiting submissively to wipe the behind of her husband. Today, of course, many male caganers wipe their own behinds.
- The caganer is said to be one of the most popular figures in the Catalan nativity scene.