Ah, the traditional nativity scene: the baby asleep in the manger, the three kings bearing gifts and the man taking a dump in the corner…
It may seem strange to us Brits, but the Catalan nativity includes a very naughty character indeed: the Caganer, which more or less translates as ‘The Crapper’.
This free-spirited guy is usually found squatting in the corner of the crib, pants down and unloading some timber – and I’m not talking about the wood used to build the stable walls…
Catalan Nativity scenes usually depict figures from rustic, countryside life, representing the entire city of Bethlehem rather than just zoning in on the manger, in the way we typically see in British cribs.
Everyone is invited to attend this baby shower, whether they’re wearing pants or not!
This bare-bummed figurine holds a special place in the hearts of the Catalan people – when the local council of Barcelona tried to remove it from their nativity scene back in 2005, people kicked off big time!
Barcelona officials were concerned the Caganer was setting a poor example and could be encouraging citizens to publicly defecate, however, locals felt their culture was being attacked and the Caganer was reinstated the very next Christmas.
My daughter fascinated by 'The Caganer' figure, or pooing peasant! pic.twitter.com/ARTlsMiidN
— Alan Wylie (@wylie_alan) July 30, 2017
Sporting a white shirt and a traditional barretina hat, ‘The Caganer’ is believed to have started his eternal toilet break between the 16th and 17th centuries.
He appears in various Catalan speaking places, including Andorra, Southern France, Valencia and the Balearic Islands – he also pops up in the Canary Islands and Murcia.
You’ll generally find this mischievous little fellow crouched behind a bush or building, or just in the corner – he really isn’t too fussy about modern loo facilities this one.
Amazingly, he’s even depicted as members of high political office and numerous celebrities – everyone from Barack Obama to the Queen of England has had their turn as ‘The Caganer’.
I wonder if the Arda Turan caganer is a big seller pic.twitter.com/JfUjvnuNw0
— Scott Nelson (@hatrik10) December 2, 2017
Carme Calduch, Catalan Language Assistant at Queen Mary University of London told UNILAD:
In current days it represents the most varied characters, from politicians, members of Royal families, football players, film stars, etc, yet the peasant has never stopped being the most popular figure.
It seems the origin can be found at some point between the 16th and 17th centuries, during the cultural and artistic movement of the Baroque, which was characteristic of an excessive realism.
During the period, this figurine was not specific of the crib and it could also be found in tiles where it would be telling stories.
‘The Caganer’ appears in the Catalan crib at the end of the 18th century, although it didn’t become popular until the 19th century.
The meaning behind the Caganer is unclear, but he’s generally seen to be a positive presence, with some believing he brings good luck, while others think he represents fertility.
Although the origin of putting a figure defecating in the nativity scene is not exactly known, it’s thought ‘The Caganer’ fertilises the soil and the land with his excrements, which is considered a symbol of prosperity and good fortune for the year to come.
The tradition of ‘The Caganer’ is well accepted by the Church and introducing it in the Crib will bring good fortune and happiness; if on the contrary it’s not placed among the figures of the Nativity, it’ll bring misfortune.
There might be some other explanations and which one is really the truth, I’m not entirely sure?
Check out the clip below of Stephen Fry and friends discussing the infamous character:
[ooyala autoplay=”true” player_id=”5df2ff5a35d24237905833bd032cd5d8″ auto=”true” width=”640″ height=”480″ pcode=”twa2oyOnjiGwU8-cvdRQbrVTiR2l” code=”xpdHVrZDE600SAPdVRHB3sMe3qG3Xph0″]
Interestingly, this isn’t the only pooping reference during Catalan Christmas celebrations, which I must say sound like great fun.
According to Calduch:
As a curiosity, the Caganer is not the only Christmas character from the Catalan countries which defecates. There’s another tradition, el tió, or Christmas log.
Each year, the younger children of each house will go to the forest to find a log and they’ll take it home, where it’s fed during the whole month of December and it’s covered with a blanket, to keep it warm.
On Christmas Day, the children of the house will beat the log while singing songs asking it to ‘poop’ nuts, sweets and Christmas nougats. It’ll also bring small presents for Children.
A magical sweet-pooping-log. What an excellent prezzie idea…
— Christina Tkacik (@xtinatkacik) August 10, 2017
Will you be making space for ‘The Caganer’ in your Nativity scene this year?
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.