As we continue with our Holiday Celebrations Around the World series, I am excited to introduce Mar from Once in a Lifetime Journey sharing her thoughts on the celebration of Caga Tio in Catalunya, Spain. It’s not your typical holiday celebration, but one I definitely wanted to learn more about and share with others. I hope you enjoy Mar’s post as much as I do.
What is Caga Tio?
Memories of my childhood and Christmas go hand in hand with a large nativity with figurines of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as well as the shepherds and the Three Wise Men which we used to put up at home. We would go to the forest to collect moss which would go under the figurines and then put up a representation of the Birth of Jesus. It was a lot of fun to advance the Three Wise Men every day until they reached little Jesus on the day of the gift exchange in Spain: 6th of January.
Caga Tio in Catalunya, Spain
In Catalunya, the traditions also include a gift exchange on the eve of Christmas Day. Whereas in most of Spain Christmas Eve is big, in Catalunya it wasn’t so much of a tradition and what most families used to do (and still do) is what is called in Catalan, Caga Tio, translating, literally to a “pooping log”. I know, this sounds not only weird but also gross. How can a log poop, you may ask? It does so after you beat it with a tree branch long enough while singing a song. Curious yet?
Caga Tio is a pagan tradition and one whose origins are unclear but the reality of the tradition goes as follows. As kids, you believe in the Three Wise Men, the equivalent in Spain of Santa Claus which does not exist other than in commercial ads, and they also believe that if they feed the log every day, it will eventually “poop” gifts. But not before beating it well.
On the eve of Christmas Day, we would get branches from the forest, as I lived in the countryside, and would go and wet the branches in a pot with water in another room. In the meantime, our parents would hide the gifts under the log and cover it with a blanket. When we would be called to come back, the gifts would be well hidden and we would start with our singing and beating. When the song would end, we would lift the blanket to find the great gifts our parents had hid.
It sounds silly, but it was a lot of fun and, of course, since we were just kids, we believed the log had brought them to us because we had fed it properly for the previous two weeks and because we had been good kids. The operation would go on and go, every time with new gifts, until the log would poop us charcoal, or an orange, to indicate the gifts were over. Other people may use other symbols to indicate the gifts are over like garlic or onions.
Today, logs are sold in Christmas Markets and come painted with faces and have legs and hats, but when I was a kid we would simply go to the forest and pick up a log which we would take care of until Christmas Eve.
Mar is an ultra-frequent traveler and serial expat. She used to take a flight to an exotic destination every week for ten years until she realized that she wanted to go on last minute Tuesday night drinks with friends and sleep on her bed more than three nights a week. She quit her management consultant job and joined Google in Singapore. She started her blog, Once in a lifetime journey, almost six years ago focusing on the type of travel that she loves doing: luxury and out of the ordinary. You will find her equally at a high-end resort and somewhere you have never heard of. She has visited almost 90 countries and is a member of the Traveler’s Century Club.