Mention European Christmas Markets and the first things to come into your head are hot wine and sausages. Spain, however, does things a little differently! I’ve just returned from visiting Barcelona and their Christmas Market had no signs of food or drink anywhere! Crazily enough, two of the most prominent items on sale revolved around…poop. One of the traditions I’d actually love to continue in my own life, think Elf on the Shelf but Catalonia style!
Yep, I’m going to give this post a yucky warning, if you don’t want to read lots about poop, I won’t mind if you stop reading, but surely as travellers that’s part of what we love, learning about traditions and cultures in other countries! Plus it’s related to Christmas, how bad can it be!
Tio de Nadal (Christmas Log), otherwise known as Caga Tio (Poo Log), is exactly what it says on the tin…literally a log (see image above)! On one end is a face and a little red hat and the idea is, children are meant to take good care of the log leading up to Christmas, feeding it up and keeping it warm by covering it with a blanket. Then on Christmas Eve, they ask the log to poop presents by hitting it with a stick…like a Piñata (only it doesn’t smash to pieces). If they have been good, the log will poop sweets and nuts for the family to share. When it has finished, it’ll leave an onion or pee (a bowl of water). It sounds kinda yucky but I strangely love the idea! I think it’d be a fun winter project to make your own and I like the way it’s a bit like a communal present for everyone to enjoy, like you have to work together to get the reward! The market stalls sold the Tio de Nadals in all different sizes…I bought a teenie one as a souvenir!
The majority of stalls sold props to create Christmas/Nativity scenes. Think: little barns, clay animals, figures, food items…a bit like putting together a doll’s house. It is tradition to hide a ‘Caganer’ within the scene for the children to find (like Where’s Wally). Now I couldn’t physically bring myself to buy a Caganer, I found it a little bit too graphic! The Caganer takes the form of a peasant in a red hat, like the Tio de Nadal, squatting and taking a poop. It represents fertilising the ground of the Nativity scene to bring good luck to make sure the scene can continue the following year. Just like everything in the mass market, these figures are also made in the shape of famous people, tv and film characters and in the colours of football teams…the stalls were swamped with customers!
I visited the markets situated in front of Barcelona Cathedral. Other than the Caganers, I found that the markets didn’t really sell items that could be bought as souvenirs/gifts, it was more focused on the craft of building the Nativity scenes and locals buying their real Christmas Trees, it was fun to walk round none the less!
Does your country have any unique Christmas traditions?