El Caganer and Tió de Nadal: Traditional Catalan Christmas

Posted on 10 December 2015 in Barcelona, always!, Culture, History

As in many other places, Barcelonan families, especially those with children, have the tradition of creating a nativity scene. They can be large or small with figurines that range from the handmade to the commercially produced or even in plastic. The Virgin Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the ox, the donkey, the Three Wise Men and some shepherds are essential, but other figurines can also be added.

In the Catalonian version of the nativity scene, another figurine appears, perhaps the most endearing and typical character in the traditional imagery of Christmas in Catalonia: El Caganer.

caganerOriginally portrayed as a peasant wearing typical Catalonian attire, a hat called a barretina and a sash, he is depicted squatting down with his buttocks in the air, answering a call of nature, and is usually hidden away in the nativity scene behind a small house or under a bridge, so that children can look for him.

Every year, new “caganers” appear, depicting well-known local, national and international figures, politicians, artists and sportspeople, and some of the most popular and amusing market stalls for visitors during the fair are those that sell these figurines.

There are also numerous stalls dedicated to arts and crafts, but those that especially attract the attention are the ones that are crammed with examples of another traditional character, a Christmas log called the Tió de Nadal. With a smiley face and sporting a Catalonian barretina hat, the log is supposed to be taken home and fed. On Christmas Day, the children, armed with sticks, beat him and sing songs, like the one below, to make him leave presents such as sweets and confectionary.

tio de nadalCaga tió
 ametlles i torró –
 no caguis arangades
 que són massa salades
 caga torrons
 que són més bons
 Caga tió
 ametlles i torró
 si no vols cagar
 et donaré un cop de bastó
Kids-at-Barcelona-Christmas-FairLeave something behind, log
 Almonds and nougat
 Don’t leave herrings
 Which are too salty
 Leave nougat
 Which is so delicious
 Leave something behind, log
 Almonds and nougat
 If you don’t want to
 I’ll hit you with a stick


Local Barcelonans visit the Santa Llúcia Fair or Sagrada Familia Fair to stock up on everything they need to decorate their homes, to see this year’s latest figurines or to just take a stroll around the market stalls and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere.

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