Christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia

Our Christmas traditions in Barcelona and Catalonia are slightly unusual. “Pessebre,” “caganer,” and “caga tió” are some words related to Christmas that are only known here. So, what do they mean?

If you are in Barcelona for Christmas, you’ll need to know a few things, which we’ll explain below.

Christmas traditions in Catalonia

“PESSEBRE”

This is the Pessebre we have at home

A “Pessebre” represents the Nativity of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men. It is traditionally set up in every home, but you can also find them in many town squares, courtyards, churches, and many other places.

christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia- pessebre
christmas in Barcelona and Catalonia- pessebre

According to tradition, the first Pessebre was probably made by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. If you visit Naples in Italy, you’ll find many  Presepe, which are very similar to ours. In Barcelona, you can find everything you need to make a Pessebre at the two most popular Christmas Markets in town, the Fair of Santa Llúcia in the Gothic Quarter and the Christmas Market of Sagrada Família.

“CAGA TIÓ & CAGANER”

But what makes our Christmas decorations and traditions entirely “different” are these two fellas: the Caga Tió (literal translation: pooping log) and the Caganer (literal translation: pooping man). Both these are unique to Catalonia and Aragon.

Caganer

The Caganer is the figure of a man in a squatting position dressed in traditional Catalan dress and wearing the typical “barretina” (red hat). You can find one on every Pessebre, generally hidden behind the Nativity scene. It comes from ancient times and represents life and fertility in the countryside and the most normal and human necessity, right next to the exceptional event of the birth of Jesus.

caganers Christmas in Barcelona
caga tio santa llucia

Nowadays, you can find many “Caganers,” that look like well-known politicians, actors, cartoon characters, etc. To see an incredible variety of them visit www.caganer.com

Caga Tió

The Caga Tió is a tradition that probably dates back quite a few centuries; formerly, a log was burned inside the house during the Christmas festivities to warm up the house and the family would gather together around it. Nowadays, the Tió “arrives” at people’s homes a few weeks before Christmas; during this time, the kids will leave mostly oranges skins (as they are in season) and cookies before going to school, and the Tió will “eat” them.

We put the Tió in the living room or dining room and cover it with a blanket. Then, typically on December 24th, we send the kids to another room to say some prayers or sing some songs and when they come back, they hit the Tió with a wooden stick and sing a special song; when the song is over, they lift the blanket, and all the presents are there. Most of the gifts will be the typical “turrones” and other sweets, chocolates, or hazelnuts that the family eats during the festivities.

So in many Catalan homes, Father Christmas doesn´t show up, but it is the Tió who brings the Christmas presents to the family.

Listen to Viggo Mortensen talking about the “Caga Tió”