Caga Tio and Caganer are two very strange Catalan Christmas 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.
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”
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…..
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
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!