My first Christmas in Barcelona 3 years ago was really fun, as I discovered a new twist to the ever more commercial Christmas. This year, coming back to Romania and its own Christmas traditions, it felt like a good enough moment to reminisce the quirky Cristmas traditions and fun times we had in Spain – and give you better reasons to visit Spain in winter, too!
As I keep saying: Spain really is so much more than beaches, paella and sangria.
So here’s my present you you all – some Quirky Cristmas Traditions in Spain:
Caga Tio – the Poop Log
Though jolly, fat man Santa (in Spanish, Papá Noel) and faithful assistants – consumerism and waste – have long permeated local traditions around the world, children in Catalonia still find happiness in getting their presents the old way (which, I’ll add, is far more entertaining).
So move over Santa, here comes Caga Tio!
A blanket-covered wooden log, suggestively called Caga Tio – Poop Log – is tenderly taken care of throughout December, being kept warm under a blanket, given food and water every night, so that the log can give back presents, come Christmas.
All the loving is not without ulterior motives, because the more taken care of and fed, the more presents it is expected to poop out for Christmas.
The song that kids sing is absolutely, belly aching, cheek hurting, hilarious! See the English translation below:
- Caga Tio Poop nougats (turrón),
- Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
- If you don’t shit well,
- I’ll hit you with a stick, Caga Tio!
- Caga Tio Poop yummy stuff,
- Candies and cake
- No herrings must you make, Caga Tio!
- Caga Tio Poop tiny gifts, Chocolate and toys,
- Stuff for girls and boys, Caga Tio!
- Caga Tio Deliver it now
- Then we will all cheer
- Please, be a dear, Caga Tio!
- Caga Tio Its your turn, don’t you see?
- Christmas is here
- So poop one just for me, Caga Tio!
- Caga Tio, If you don’t poop
- I will beat you with a stick
- Don’t play a nasty trick!, Caga Tio!
Talk about quirky Cristmas traditions ! Hey, if you can beat this one tradition (pun intended) do let us know in the comments section.
Christmas in Barcelona seems like a lifetime away, but I’ve kept my caga tio, just like most families these days.
If we’re to stick to tradition however, the log was to be burnt in the fireplace, and its ashes scattered on the fields, for a good harvest in the year to come.
Legends of Fire and Shit
Fun Fact: Fire and shit are – funnily enough – very present across Spanish traditions.
You’ve got the Caganer, a squatting figurine which nowadays fills tourist shops with little, shitting statuettes of famous figures like the pope, Merkel or Messi. You name it, they’ve got it!
Don’t be overly offended though: Caganer is a symbol of fertility (after all, manure is fertilizer) and a sign of good-luck, for a good harvest for the year to come.
Though outside of the Christmas spirit, you’ve got to knw about Las Fallas (literally meant torch) a century old tradition held every year in March – in Valencia, to celebrate St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters. Since it takes place around spring equinox when, coming out of winter, days last longer and carpenters didn’t need oil lamps to work at night anymore, they’d burn the wooden instruments used to hold up the lamps.
Nowadays, huge wooden figurines are burnt instead of plain old sticks.
The celebrations are huge, and every year between March 15-18 Valencia’s population doubles, as people from around Spain gather to watch spectacular fireworks displays, culminating with the burning of the exquisitely crafted, giant figurines.
Festa de San Joan
Fireworks and fire again – this time in June, as people celebrate the shortest night of the year in big style! Fireworks, firecrackers and bonfires light up the night sky as people are out partying all night long. And if you’re feeling particularly brave, make a wish whilst jumping over one of the bonfires.
Read more here: Spain Midsummer Fiestas: How to San Juan in Barcelona
Tres Reyes Magos
For people in Spain January 5 is actually bigger deal than December 25.
Because on January 5, musicians, artists and costumed folks all parade across city streets, together with the Three Kings (Tres Reyes Magos). In true Spanish style, it’s time for Fiesta – yet again.
This is an important day for kids, since they’re later supposed to clean their shoes and leave them in the living room, for the three kings to leave presents later that night.
The date differs, but sure sounds like what Romanian kids do, on the night of December 5, for St. Nicholas.
Come to think about it, Spaniards almost tip their hats to old rite Orthodox Christians, who celebrate Christmas on January 7.
After all, holidays are about celebrating with family and loved ones, and they go beyond religion or traditions.
So from one heart to many, I wish you all: Happy Holidays!