Okay I am back with my second installment of bizarre Catalan Christmas traditions.
Let us begin by gazing at the classic nativity scene. There are the wise men, the cows, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in his cradle. Oh but wait, who's that over in the corner next to those ceramic shepherds? Is it...? could it be....? A man taking a shit?
Meet El Caganer, the beloved pooping participant of the Catalan nativity scene. There is some debate over the origins and reasons for this tradition but it is generally agreed that El Caganer (literally "the pooper") has been doing his business in Catalonian mangers for at least 200 years.
I'm so not shitting you!
In the United States, you know you are important if your face appears on the top of a cupcake. In the Catalonian region of Spain, you know you've hit the big time if you are made into a pooper. Barack Obama must have been very proud when he saw this:
Apparently there was widespread outcry in 2005 because the Barcelona City Council commissioned a nativity scene that did not include a caganer. The Catalan citizens (who it must be said, are quite sensitive when it comes to any perceived attack on their cultural traditions) were outraged. I would really love to have been a fly on the wall during the discussions that took place regarding the issue.
Outraged Catalan Citizen: "WHERE'S OUR POOPER? Normally he squats over by that dry riverbed, next to the angel, and this year he's GONE! How could you!
City Official: "We felt that in view of the recent law making public defecation illegal, including the pooper in the nativity would set a bad example..."
Outraged Catalan Citizen: "This is an outrage! This is an attack on Catalunya! Bring back the pooper! Independence from Spain!!"
A "Save the Pooper" campaign and general media frenzy followed and in 2006, El Caganer was back where he belonged.
To be continued (and trust me, it gets even weirder...)