Friday, December 2, 2011

Pooping In The Nativity Scene (Caganers)

Yesterday I happened to walk by the Santa Lucia Christmas market located in the plaza in front of the Barcelona cathedral. There were a few hundred people checking out about 50-or-so stands that are set up to sell mostly Christmas and other seasonal decorations. I was super happy to see it because, now that Spanish Thanksgiving is out of the way, I'm definitely interested in seeing what Christmas looks like in Spain.

There were a couple of things that were unusual/unexpected about the market though. First, there are no food stands (yes, I was hungry at the time). Whenever there's something like this in the United States, there are always stands selling different food and drinks, especially things like hot cider or other seasonal drinks. I'm guessing that there's a rule against it as there are none, as in zero food available. Another thing that was unusual was something that I had heard about but hadn't seen yet and is interesting enough for this crowd to gather around:

What could possibly cause so much excitement that a bunch of folks are gathered around to check it out??? Caganers, which are small statues of people TAKING DUMPS...that's what!!! If you look in this photo, you'll see Caganers of all different things, from sports and political folks to cartoon characters:

Yep, pooping, haciendo caca, growing Shaq's arm, dropping the kids off at the pool, or pinching a loaf! I had no idea either! It turns out that Caganers (which roughly means "pooping person" in Catalan) have been around at least since the 1800s and are traditionally placed in a Christmas nativity scene "to fertilize the earth", which is considered good luck for the next year. The market had a bunch of Caganer stands mixed in among other stands selling items for a design-it-yourself nativity scenes:

Here are some Castellers doing their doody:

I read that the local Barcelona government caught a lot of flack a few years ago because they had built the city-funded nativity scene (pesebre in Catalan) in the main public plaza, Plaza Sant Jaume, but had failed to include a Caganer. They've since rectified the situation and now always have one. I found this year's just to the right of the exit:

Other than meeting all sorts of interesting people, the part of traveling around that I find most interesting are the traditions and festivals of the places I go (like this unusual one I went to in Japan). Add Caganers to the list! Here are some more examples that I saw in a shop window in the Gothic area of the city. I particularly liked the Darth Vader in this crazy cultural diaspora...

It might be tough to believe but this wasn't the only Christmas-fecal-themed tradition I saw yesterday...but you'll have to tune in next time to learn more... It appears to me that Catalunya is full of crap around Christmas time!


  1. We catalan people do like a ton scatological things!!

  2. PAu: that's why it's called CAGA-lunya! :-)


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