The Caganer is a typical Catalan Christmas figure characterized by its cheeky position in the nativity scene. Amid this tradition, we usually spot a crouched man more or less hidden answering the call of Nature outdoors. It is said that not exhibiting him brings misfortune since his faeces fertilize the ground and also bring luck and happiness for the year ahead. This is the reason why all the versions you can find in our website pay tribute to what they represent while wishing them well.
The Caganer cannot be pictured without the Nativity Scene —a plastic representation of the birth of Jesus that started with monumental statues but was gradually introduced in homes. Initially, the intention was to illustrate the traditional elements that were part of this moment —shepherds, angels, the Three Wise Kings, poultry, a herdboy, the river, a Caganer— in order to bring this world of happiness and Christmas to the everyday life of the families. Because their nativity scenes are so much larger, finding the Caganer is a popular game in Catalonia.
Although traditionally, the Caganer is a peasant in a red hat (a barretina), nowadays you can buy Caganers that resemble almost anything you can think of. There are nuns, popes, George W. Bush, Santa and even Barack Obama. You can also find them dedicated to towns, to distant traditions, to jobs, and to animals Although adding the Caganer is a Catalan and Valencian tradition, they can also be found in Murcia, Naples and Portugal albeit under different names.
And in case you’re thinking this is just some niche tradition started by a couple of whatever the Catalonian equivalent of frat boys are, think again: In 2005, Barcelona’s city council tried to leave the Caganer out of the city’s nativity scene, and all hell broke loose. A massive “Save the Caganer” campaign was started, a media blitzkrieg ensued and eventually, the government caved to the overwhelming demand and restored the beloved figure to his rightful place.
And the Caganer is not the only Catalan character that defecates: we can not forget about the Tió de Nadal, a log that lives under the Christmas Tree and needs to be fed until Christmas Eve so that he can “pass” a few gifts thanks to the songs and blows the children provide him with. He needs to be wrapped in a blanket to keep him warm until you beat him(!) and also to hide the gifts under.
Why are all the Christmas traditions so violent or weird?