In Spain, some customs are popular only in a few regions and the one we are about to share with you is related to the history of El Tio de Nadal.
El Tió de Nadal (a Christmas log in Catalan) is an important part of the Catalan Christmas traditions. It is a piece of a wooden trunk that kids hit with a stick on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day to get presents. In fact, the kids are waiting for the Tio to poop their presents (we know, we’ll explain later!).
The presents hidden below the log are not there by miracle. The parents are the ones who hide the gifts, the same way it is done in different cultures with a Christmas tree.
We are about to dive into this weirdly funny Catalan Christmas custom and tell you all about this poop log. So stay tuned!
What is the Tio de Nadal?
Although in Catalonia some people celebrate Christmas like in the rest of Spain, others follow Catalan traditions.
In Catalonia, some children anxiously wait for the arrival of Santa Claus with presents, while others wait for Tio de Nadal to poop their gifts. This Catalan poop log brings joy and happiness to a lot of kids.
Also known as Caga Tio, Tio de Nadal is a wooden trunk with a painted smiley face, that wears a Catalan hat (barretina), and is decorated with stick legs. The pooper tradition is particularly widespread in Catalonia, as well as in Andorra and some parts of Aragon, where people call it La Tronca de Nadal, Toza, or in Galicia Tizón do Nadal.
Tradition for Children
So how does this gift pooper bring you Christmas presents?
Well, first, you must feed it. What the children do is feed the log with sweets, candies, nuts, and other food.
The feeding starts on the 8th of December (which is the Feast of Immaculate Conception) and ends on Christmas Eve (the 24th of December). To feed Caga Tio, children will place the food in the front of the log at night, and in the morning, the food will have mysteriously disappeared.
Over the following days, the log would grow. But of course, as mentioned before, parents hide sweets and replace the poop log with bigger ones.
Children would also cover the log with a blanket to keep it warm. The better the children treat the log, the better they will be rewarded.
On Christmas day, or in some cases, on Christmas eve, children order the poop log to defecate. They don’t just say it. They start hitting it with a stick while singing the Caga Tio song (see below). Consequently, it “poops” the presents.
Normally, the parents cover the presents with a blanket behind the poop log. So when a child hits the log, the parents would raise the blanket, pull a present, and give the children the gift.
CAGA TIO SONGS
Avellanes i mató,
Si no cagues bé
Et daré un cop de bastó.
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don't poop well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
Tió de Nadal,
No caguis arengades,
Que són massa salades
Que són més bons!"
Log of Christmas,
Don't poop herrings,
Which are too salty,
Which are much better!
The Tradition vs Modern Age
As usually happens over time, tradition changes. The Tio de Nadal poop log used to be placed by the fireplace. Unfortunately, people no longer do this because in modern times fireplaces are not as common. But, imagining we still have fireplaces, this is what the tradition would look like.
Families would burn the log and they would spread the ashes on the fields outside the house. However, nowadays parents keep the log to use it next year.
Likewise, according to the tradition, the event would end with the log pooping a head of garlic, an onion, an egg, or any other symbolic item, which is something not done as often now.
Back in the day, Caga Tio was an ordinary wooden log. Nowadays, they paint its face and make it look like a live person.
Normally, the presents that Tio de Nadal poops are generally nougats, nuts, or candies. It has a lot to do with the Spanish tradition of the Three Wise Men (Los Reyes Magos) who are responsible for bringing the main presents on the 6th of January.
History of the Tio de Nadal
Tio de Nadal has a rural and likely pagan origin that used to be related to the winter solstice celebrations and pre-Christmas traditions.
Although the exact origin and timeframe of the Tio de Nadal are unknown, the traditions say that the parents went outside and cut a 30-centimeters wood log. The poop log with a smiley face and legs is a more recent invention.
As you can see, the Tio Nadal traditions really remind us of Christmas traditions all over Spain and the world too. One of the main differences between Christmas and Tio de Nadal traditions is that the Tio de Nadal presents the kids with smaller gifs, whereas, on January 6, the Three Wise Men bring them bigger ones, like toys and other stuff they wished for.
What Does Tio de Nadal Represent?
Tio de Nadal or Caga Tio represents the log that burned as a source of heat and light in winter and symbolically everything they needed to celebrate the festivities (the sweets).
The hits with a stick probably come from stoking the Tio in the fire. However, the loss of fireplaces in modern houses, makes the hits to Caga Tio a symbolic act.
Another theory, according to an article published in 324 (a Catalan TV channel), proposes that the beating of Caga Tio comes from an old ritual of waking up nature on the day of the winter solstice.
Today, it is more of a tradition for children where they get presents. As they state in 324, our ancestors would ‘eat’ the spiritual part of the food leaving the rest for their family members, especially the children.
In addition, the same article claims that the reason the Tio de Nadal was burned and the ashes were spread on the fields, was probably to ensure a good harvest the following year.
Over time, this tradition has become a children’s party and most of the original meaning has been lost.
Tio de Nadal is also Known Abroad
Sometimes, traditions can cross borders, spreading new customs across other regions. A clear example is an American comedian and actress Kate McKinnon, who explained on Late Night with Seth Myers that she adopted the Catalan pooping log Christmas tradition.
A famous Anthony Bourdain also mentioned this funny Catalan Christmas custom in one of his No Reservations Holiday Special 2011 videos made especially for this occasion.
You will get a very clear picture of how this funny holiday custom is performed.
Tio the Nadal Related Figures
There is one more figurine that is related to the poop log. It’s El Caganer!
El Caganer is a figurine of a man or a peasant defecating. It usually appears in nativity scenes, which many (religious) people find appalling. One of the many explanations for putting the Caganer in the nativity scene was the fertilization of the Earth!
El Tio de Nadal has one thing in common with El Caganer: both represent the act of defecating. Therefore, why don’t we join these two awesome characters together to create the most awesome figurine ever seen? A Caga Tio caganer! Two figures in one.
The way some Catalans celebrate Christmas is unique, but some people can find it disrespectful. However, the Catalans don’t see it like that. For them, it’s just a part of the festivities, like any other customs.
We think that whatever side you find yourself in, Tio de Nadal cannot be considered as something offensive. After all, it represents a part of the holiday tradition to those people who celebrate it this way: whacking the poop log until it births the gifts. You cannot get mad about that!
Did you enjoy the story about Tio de Nadal and El Caganer? Would you like to show your kids (or your friends and family) how this unusual Catalan Christmas custom works? Order these little poop figurines online and tell them all about it. They will love all the presents el Tio de Nadal can poop on Christmas eve!
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