Friday, 8 January 2010

Church Does Not Object to Pooping in Catalans Christmas Cribs

When you have come to terms with the pooping Christmas log, the Caga tió, it is time take in the next oddity among the Catalan Christmas traditions: the Caganer - the little man pooping in a corner of the crib. Although both figures have to do with our natural needs they are totally different since with the Christmas log you need to use your imagination, while the caganer (the "pooper") certainly reveals it all.

These pooping figures gained popularity in the 19th century, but made their first appearances in Christmas cribs already at the end of the 17th century. Outside Catalonia and Valencia, they also exist in, for example, Murcia (cagones), Portugal (cagões) and Naples in Italy (il pastore che caca). Still today, do they stir up debate and it is therefore worth taking note that they are fully accepted by the Catholic Church, as if they only enhance the mystery of Christmas.

Possibly should we see this little character's private activity as a fertility symbol – the caganer improves the quality of the soil and thereby guarantees a better harvest. More symbolically, it can be interpreted as the Lord showing up when he decides, no matter how unsuitable the time is for mankind, or as a reminder that God, through Jesus, became a man of flesh and blood.

Earlier this figure used to look like a Catalan peasant, with dark trousers, white shirt, sash (faixa) and barretina (a kind of cap) – often with a pipe in the mouth - but with the time it has evolved to be the most dynamic figure of the crib. Admit that there is a satirical value to see politicians from Catalonia, Spain (José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero or José María Aznar) or the world (Barack Obama or Hugo Chávez), famous football players (Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta or Zlatan Ibrahimović) and others squatting with their pants down, and leaving a little pile behind.

Not only can the caganer be renewed every year, it also invites you to play. Those who are a bit provocative will repeatedly move it forward to a prominent position, while more prudish types will restore order by hiding it as much as possible. That tends to be pretty easy since many Catalan Christmas crib depict a full landscape with buildings and not only the nativity scene with the holy family.

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Sources and inspiration:

CAT: Wikipedia on the Caganer
CAT: on the Caganer
ENG: Wikipedia on the Caganer

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Vilanova

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