Caga Tió — and the night before Christmas

Caga Tió — and the night before Christmas

Hi there,

Warning: Some folks might find this Catalan Christmas tradition somewhat vulgar. If you're easily offended, please close this page, accept my apologies, and have yourself a Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful time.

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It's Christmas Eve.

And this means every young kid in Catalonia (the region of Spain, of which Barcelona is the capital) is getting excited about beating their Caga Tió.

What is a Caga Tió?

I'm not sure how to explain this tastefully, so I'm just going to go ahead and tell you what it is. As you continue reading, just remember that I didn't invent this tradition! It sounds like a joke, but this is really what we do for the kids.

Here goes:

Tió means "log" in Catalan.  Caga means poop.

The photo at the top of this email is a Caga Tió. Every year, around the beginning of December, families buy one of those at the traditional Christmas market — and then, throughout advent, the kids have to "look after" it, by feeding it pieces of orange peel and turrón (a type of nougat we eat).

At night, while the kids are sleeping, parents put small Christmas gifts under the blanket that covers the log's rear end. After a few weeks, it starts to swell.

On Christmas Eve, if they are good boys and girls, they get to beat their Caga Tió with a wooden stick and demand that it — ahem — "go to the bathroom".

There's even a poem that our parents always made us recite.

(It's far too rude to recite in an email. But it's on  the Wikipedia page.)

If we recited the poem well, and our parents were of the opinion that our Caga Tió had the necessary encouragement to "go" — i.e. our parents were sufficiently entertained — we got to lift the blanket and find our gifts.

Alas, I'm too old for Caga Tió now.

Unlike your Santa Claus tradition, when a kid becomes old enough to understand that it's just a game, they no longer celebrate it; he or she has to join the adults and help keep the magic alive for the younger kids.

So, yeah — this is what we do on Christmas Eve in Catalonia.

Whatever special (or strange) Christmas traditions you have in the place you call home, I hope you have a wonderful time with the people you love.

Feliz navidad, prospero año y felicidad!

P.S. In case you're curious,  here's a video I found on YouTube of a Catalan family practicing this tradition. It's exactly how I remember!

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