Weird News Video #28 — Christmas Traditions

Episode #28: “You Think Your State is Weird?”, from True’s 14 December 2008 issue.

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You Think Your State is Weird?

Catalonia, Spain, boasts some of the most …uh… unique Christmas traditions. Nativity scenes there typically don’t just include a manger, but rather the entire town of Bethlehem. That is, in part, to make it harder for the people who delight in finding the caganer — or “pooper.” The figurine depicts a man or woman, often someone well-known, in the act of defecating, and it’s been a tradition in Catalonian nativity scenes since the 17th century. “People call from all over the world asking for us to make statues of their local figures,” says a spokesman for Terra I Mar, which makes the figurines. But despite offering 150 styles of caganers and selling 20,000–25,000 of them each year, there is still “no way we could make everyone happy.” The spokesman notes the traditional farmer is their best-seller, followed this year by a pooping President George W. Bush. The pope is also a popular figure. (Der Speigel) …But the Pope’s easy to find, because he’s always hidden in the woods.

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6 Comments on “Weird News Video #28 — Christmas Traditions

  1. Catalan Christmas traditions are weirder than just that! You forgot to mention the decorated tree trunk which poops candy and small gifts for the kids!

    The tree trunk is usually a two foot segment with a face painted on one end, with a red cloth hat. There are two sticks on that end to hold it up, like arms. A small cloth blanket covers the other end, which is where the candy and small gifts appear.

    I’m actually aware of that tradition, too — I read up a bit on Catalonia when I wrote the story. I was there once, too, but unfortunately it wasn’t at Christmas! -rc

  2. Not really a comment, I just don’t understand the tag-line about always finding the pope in the woods. Could you please explain that line? Thank you.

    I’ve had several e-mails essentially all with the question, “Will anyone ELSE get that joke?!” — and also a few asking for an explanation. The Urban Dictionary will give you the gist of it. -rc

  3. The caganer bear is, of course, a Catholic!

    Probably is! Spain is heavily Catholic, of course, so I was intrigued that pope caganers are quite popular. -rc

  4. Hi, Joe. I was born and lived for almost 40 years in Catalonia and I can tell you that Spain is not heavily Catholic. Not anymore. And, in any case, Catalonia has never been specially devoted. This land is traditionally the most politically leftist of the country and famous for the “Setmana Tragica” (The Tragic Week) in 1909. A small proletarian revolution lead to a general strike, urban guerrillas and many churches burnt down to ground. Catalonia has traditionally been the place of birth of many famous militant anarchists.

    But, back to the “caganer”, the share of the lion goes to the “pages” (farmer) depicted in the video. The most exotic ones are mainly used to make fun, and protest against, international celebrities that deserve it. In private houses they are almost impossible to find. Actually, the whole manger scene is very well done, with natural bark making the grotto and a tinfoil river and all. It’s set up by mid-December and the Three Wise Men riding on camelback are moved forward a little bit every day until their arrival the last night. I’ve got to say that I’ve never seen a “caganera”, a female one. (More info.)

    The crapping log is called the Tio or Cagatio, and it’s a way of giving the children plenty of small stocking stuffers until the arrival of the Three Wise Men during the night of the 5 of January (no Xmas tree nor Santa Claus exist in the local tradition, the toys appear magically on the morning of January the 6th).

    There you go, a little bit of exotic trivia for you guys.

    According to the very useful CIA World Factbook, at present Spain is 94% Catholic. That obviously doesn’t mean 94% of the population goes to mass twice a day, but to argue that Spain isn’t “heavily” Catholic is a bit much. I certainly don’t quarrel with your contention that Catalonia isn’t “specially devoted”, but neither are the majority of Americans — and you can’t very well argue that the U.S. isn’t a “heavily Christian” country even though few go to church every week! But yes, the whole concept is quite interesting, and the trivia and links you provided are fun. -rc

  5. It’s not just Catalonia that have the big nativity scenes. They have them here in the Canary Islands too. There’s a video of one on my blog . Unfortunately I didn’t spot a man in the bushes this time, although they usually have one.

  6. Thanks for the punch line “explanation.” I clearly was in the dark.

    I always thought the question with the obvious answer was “Is the Pope Polish?” Ah – but John Paul II passed on and the question died with him!

    Thank you for the continued fun Arcie!


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