Let me set the scene for you … it’s a beautiful crisp and sunny winters day in the amazing city of Barcelona. You’re wandering among the many stalls at the Christmas market, enjoying taking in the sights and sounds and you can’t help noticing these cheeky wee faces are everywhere and I mean everywhere, and they are all different sizes. Well, my curiosity leads me to find out about a very unusual tradition in Catalonia.
Meet Caga Tio – Caga, pronounced Caca- meaning poop and Tio meaning tree trunk, so this is the tradition of the pooping tree!
On the 8th of December, the smallest log will find its way into the homes of children and they will keep it as a pet until Christmas day, taking great care to feed it and keep it warm to make sure that the Tio will grow.
If the children have looked after Caga Tio well it will be fully grown by Christmas Eve and then it will be placed in the centre of the room and covered with a blanket. All the children will gather around and sing songs while hitting the Caga Tio with sticks until it ‘poops’ out presents!
Presents pooped by the Tio are generally small in size – sweets and nuts and you know when the last gift has been given as the Tio will then give a salt herring, a piece of garlic, or an onion. The entire family share the presents given by the Tio.
Well that’s unusual I thought, but to my surprise, the lady then pointed to another stall in the market, the busiest stall actually and that’s when I noticed the gentleman on top.
Yes, you are seeing right, this guy has his pants down and he’s having a poo!!! There is a second Catalonian Christmas tradition that involves poop!
This time it’s The Caganer which translates to something like “The Crapper” and believe it or not this guy is usually found tucked away in the corner of the manger scene.
The Caganer has graced Catalonian Christmases for over 200 years and apparently, the pooping figure symbolizes fertility.
Well, all this got me thinking about what other unusual Christmas traditions are out there and there are lots!
Here’s what I discovered:
In Japan Christmas isn’t a national holiday however a large number of people still celebrate. Santa Claus, or Santa Kurohsu, is said to have eyes in the back of his head to keep an eye on naughty children. Many families take a trip to KFC for their Christmas Dinner where they can enjoy special Christmas Dinner Buckets. These are so popular that people are advised to pre-order to avoid disappointment.
In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, hundreds of people travel to early-morning church services, not so unusual so far that is until you discover that they are travelling on roller skates. The roads are even closed off to allow this to happen.
In Germany and Austria the Krampus, Santa’s scary friend, who has horns and is said to be half goat and half devil, punishes naughty children throughout the festive period. A bit more sinister than my parents saying “Remember Santa’s’ Watching.”
In Norway, it’s thought Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches so to protect themselves, families hide all their brooms before they go to bed.
In Sweden since 1966, a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, but this Swedish Christmas tradition has unwittingly led to another “tradition” of sorts – people trying to burn it down. Since 1966 the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times – the most recent destruction was in 2016.
In Iceland in the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 trolls, known as the Yule Lads, come out to play. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.
In Ukraine, Christmas trees have one special decoration- a fake spider and web. It is believed that the tradition dates back many years when a poor woman could not afford to decorate her tree and when she woke up on Christmas morning she found a spider had covered it in a glittering web.
In Greenland, they serve up something that many people believe it or not would hate more than sprouts. Mattak, this is a dish of raw whale skin with blubber or how about Kiviak, which is when an auk (a small bird) is wrapped in seal skin, buried for several months, and then eaten once decomposed. Bring back the sprouts!
Do you know of anymore? Or maybe you want to tell us about a Family Tradition you have that is unique to your family?