We are quite particular with our traditions during Christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia. “Pessebre,” “caganer” and “caga tió” are some words related to Christmas that are only known here. So, what do they mean?
A “Pessebre” is the representation of the Nativity of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men. It is quite traditional to set up one at every house, but you can find them also on many Town Squares, inside courtyards, Churches, and many more places.
According to the tradition the first one was probably done by Saint Francies at Assis on the 12th century. If you visit Naples in Italy, you’ll find many Persepios or Perssepes, very similar to ours. In Barcelona, you can find everything you need to make a Pessebre at the two most popular Christmas Fairs in town, the one of Santa Llúcia at the Gothic Quarter, and the one at Sagrada Familia.
“CAGA TIÓ & CAGANER”
But what really makes our Christmas decorations and traditions entirely “different” are these to guys: the Caga Tió (popping log) and the Caganer ( pooping man). Both unique from Catalonia and Aragón.
The Caganer is the figure of a man on a squatting position dressed in the traditional Catalan dress wearing the typical “Barretina” (red hat). You can find it on every Pessebre normaly behind the scene of the Nativity. It comes like the Caga Tió from really old times and represents live and fertility in the countryside and the most normal and human necessity next to the exceptionality of the Birth of Jesus.
Nowadays you can find many “Caganers” many of them looking like politicians, actors, cartoons, etc. On this web page, you can see the incredible variety of them. www.caganer.com
The Caga Tió is probably a tradition that comes from quite a few centuries away; originally a log that was burned inside the house during the Christmas festivities, it warmed up the house and atired the family together around it. Nowadays the Tió arrives at the homes a couple of weeks before Christmas, during this time the kids will leave mostly oranges (they are in season) and cookies before going to school, and the Tió will eat them.
On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day we put the Tió at the saloon or dining room, we cover it with a blanket while we send the kids to another room to do some prayings or sing some songs, when they come back they hit the Tió and sing a song, when the song is over, they lift up the blanket and all the presents are there. Most of the presents will be the so typical “turrones” and other sweets, chocolates or hazelnuts that the family will eat during the festivities.
Listen to Viggo Mortensen talking about the “Caga Tió”