Caga Tio and Caganer – The Strangest Catalan Christmas Traditions.

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Caga Tio and Caganer are two very strange Catalan traditions, and they’re often misunderstood, so in true Christmas spirit, I will try my best to give you a clear explanation of what Caga Tio and Caganer are, and also make sure you understand the difference between Caga Tio and Caganer.

Discovering Caga Tio

Santa may come down the chimney, but Caga Tio "poos" presents!

Santa may come down the chimney, but Caga Tio "poos" presents!

My first Christmas in Barcelona was really, really good fun, partly because I discovered a new twist on the ever so repetitive Christmas traditions we have in the UK. I would orientate my English classes (I was working as an English teacher at the time) around Christmas themes such as Father Christmas and Snowmen etc. I noticed that every class, somebody would mention Caga Tio, and I had to ask “what is Caga Tio?“. To tell you the truth, when they explained what Caga Tio was, I thought they were pulling my leg.


Caga Tio, pronounced “Cacka-tee-oh”  is a wooden log with a smiley face painted onto one end. Caga Tio also wears a traditional Catalan red hat and is basically the Catalan equivalent of Santa Clause. Any one with a little Spanish knowledge, knows that “tio” means “uncle“, however it also means “log” and Caga Tio translates to “poo Log“, Christmassy hey?!

“Caga Tio, if you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick”

You have to "beat" Caga Tio with a stick to make him poop presents!

You have to "beat" Caga Tio with a stick to make him poop presents!

The idea is that Caga Tio is “looked after” by the kids from the 8th of December to Christmas Eve. They cover his rear end with a blanket to keep him warm and feed him Turron and Orange peel every evening. The more they feed him, the more Christmas presents he will “poo-out” for Christmas. I kid you not people, I didn’t believe it either, but it’s true, and the story only gets stranger from here.

Caga Tio, apparently, needs a little persuasion to “poo” the presents out, so after weeks of feeding Caga Tio and making sure he is warm with his blanket, the kids are given a stick to “beat” Caga Tio with. Only then will he “poo” out the presents. As if this isn’t absurd enough, they also have to sing a song…..


caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!”

(poop log,
poop turrón,
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
poop log!)

Once they sing the song and beat Caga Tio with the stick, the kids look in the blanket which as been keeping Caga Tio warm for the last few weeks, to find their Christmas presents. I can only assume that if the kids aren’t happy with their gifts, they beat him some more and throw him in the fire!


As if one pooping Christmas character isn’t enough, the Catalans also have “Caganer“, a little porcelain “nativity” figure of  a man, squatting down and laying one out, somewhere in the nativity scene. Caganer is a favourite of the kids, who love examining the Christmas nativity scene, trying to find where he is “pooping”. Caganer is normally hidden somewhere among the more traditional nativity scene characters, and my students told me their favourite place to find him is “pooping” in the baby’s manger.
Caganer - Welcome to the weird world of Catalonia.

Caganer - Welcome to the weird world of Catalonia.

I’ve been informed that the idea of “Caganer” is not meant to be disrespectful to any religious groups, Caganer is a sign of good-luck, his poo fertilises the land and provides a good harvest for the year to come. In modern times, it is simply a bit of fun and something special for the kids to enjoy. Caganer has been around since the 18th/19th century and is as popular as ever. However, the Catalan Government has banned Caganer from official Christmas displays in recent years….spoil sports!
Merry Christmas,
Ben Holbrook

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Submitted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

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  • Gil

    Very interesting! Thanks…

  • Fuck You

    Catalan people we’re not strange.

  • Some normal people

    Your article is so subjective, because here, in Catalonia, we can think the same about your traditions. Apart you haven’t understood very well the catalan traditon.
    So, this article isn’t very real, and a little bit offensive.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the explanation! I’m from Catalonia and for me it’s not offensive! I laughed a lot reading about a different point of view. Did you buy a caganer or a cagatio? Some of my students do! (I’m a Spanish teacher in Barcelona). Their favorite is Obama or Lady Liberty. Have you ever seen these caganers? :)

  • Other normal people

    Give me a break. Lots of traditions in lots of countries are silly. When you’re beating a log trying to get it to defecate presents, your tradition is silly. Let’s all laugh at ourselves.

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  • Arnau

    Thanks! It is always refreshing to look at ourselves from the eyes of others…!

    You say:
    >”Any one with a little Spanish knowledge, knows that “tio” means “uncle“, however it also means “log””
    I think that there are two confusions here:

    (1) The “Tió” you are talking about is stressed on the “o”, and does not mean “uncle” in any language. It’s a Catalan word that means “log for burning”.

    (2) “Tió” is NOT a Spanish word, it is a Catalan word. On the other hand, “tío” (without stress on the o) IS a Spanish word that means “uncle”, but, as far as I can tell, it does not have any ethimological relationship witht the Catalan word for “log”, “tió”.

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  • SuiteLife

    Really sorry if we offended anybody in any way, it definitely wasn’t our intention. We just wanted to talk about what we think is an uncommon tradition (one we love) that we thought was interesting and worth a share. Enjoy!