Christmas Tradition, the Shitting Log in Catalonia, Spain

Tradition of the Caga Tio (Shitting Log) in Catalonia, Spain

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He was a cute little guy wearing an oversize traditional Catalán red hat. From his place on the countertop of  St. Christopher’s Inns Hostel in Barcelona, his raised eyebrows and big black eyes stared at me with an expression of perpetual surprise. His front legs, just a couple of twigs stuck into a rough log, rested on a sheet of paper with the title: “The Tradition of the Caga Tio – Shitting Log.” I read on as I waited to check in.

In Catalonia, Spain, the Caga Tio (a large log) is believed to "shit" gifts on Christmas morning

In Catalonia, Spain, the Caga Tio (a large log) is believed to “shit” gifts on Christmas morning

In the beginning, Caga Tio  was just a log that, when burned in the fireplace, provided precious heat and light. Fire to the earth. Over time, it became a symbol of other gifts given to the household at Christmas, such as candy, nougat, and wafers. Each Christmas, in homes all over Catalonia, Spain, a Caga Tio is kept in the kitchen or dining room near the fire as the holidays approach, where family members “feed” it dry bread, carob, orange peels, tangerines and other fruits and make sure it has water to drink. Thanks to all this caring, on Christmas Eve, traditionally after midnight mass, or on Christmas morning, Caga Tio “shits” gifts.

I had the strongest urge to pick up the log and see if it had “shit” anything, as the idea of a log “shitting” Christmas presents is certainly one of the more bizarre cultural traditions I’ve ever run across. But being from a country where a fat man in a red suit lands on a rooftop in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, shimmies down a chimney, and leaves candy in stockings hung from the mantle of the fireplace, I decided I had no room to judge and, with some effort, restrained myself.

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32 Comments on “Tradition of the Caga Tio (Shitting Log) in Catalonia, Spain

  1. Seriously bizarre, but Australia celebrates reindeer and a man in a red suit and it is the middle of summer and hot as hades and no place for sleighs to land…

  2. I am speechless!! Lol. And this from someone who even lived for a little while in (southern) Spain. WOW.

    • Abby, Catalonia is such a world away from the rest of Spain in culture that it’s sometimes hard to believe you’re in Spain. Do you know that they banned bullfighting and closed all the bullfighting rings? Madrid almost came unglued over that decision!

  3. Traditions comes with the rich culture of every country. It is something one treasure for centuries..I can’t help but admire this cute little thing.

  4. How come this is the first time I’ve heard about a tradition that is as brilliant as this?? I love it! And yes, me too, I automatically thought of Mr. Hankey, the Christmas poo from ” South park”. One often comes across practices like this which make no sense or just seem hilarious, but like you said, we underestimate how much we ourselves are entangled in the weirdest habits and customs, which, if you look at them from a distance, are just as crazy to people from elsewhere. I find stuff like this very charming, though:) Even with poo. I mean, the poo is gifts! And after all, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, do you:)! Merry Christmas!

  5. HAHAAAAa, I’ve heard about this tradition, but didn’t know it was called Caga Tio, lol, now I really love it!! poop little log, poop!

  6. As Matthew said, Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo of South Park came to mind. Just learned the word cagar because one of my students asked me how to say “To carry a suitcase” which is “Cargar un equipaje.” But my accent, dropping the all important first R from “Cagar” changes the sentence to defecating in one.

  7. Great post! After that it won’t be strange for you, what we do in New Year’s Eve with the grapes and the 12 bell rings…

  8. Haha this might be the greatest thing in the world. I just have one question if Caga Toi shits all the presents how do you know if you have been naughty or nice :)

  9. I went to a Christmas dinner last year and there was a guest there from Catalunya. He brought a log just like the one in your photo and took us all through the tradition. It was bizarre and hilarious!

  10. Caga tió is my favorite Catalan tradition!!! :) Lots of fun with the family (both: kids and grownups). I am glad you have learned about it and I hope you’ll experience it some time!

  11. I love hearing about local traditions, and you always tell them so superbly… hilarious that they ‘force’ Caga Tio to shit as giant pinata :)

  12. Barbara!!!, amazing, i’m sitting on reception reding your blog and i love it!!, nice cheers from here!

  13. We have the same tradition in the Canary Islands which Pete Smith mentions but I’ve never heard of the shitting log, although one of my closest friends is Catlan! Must ask why she never told me about this!

  14. I’ve never heard of that one but there is a catalan tradition of Nativity scenes (a crib or belén in spanish), only somewhere in the corner, squatting with pants down and depositing a large turd somewhere in the holy scene. He’s called “el Cagador”— “the shitter.”

  15. The shitting log reminded me automatically of the character Mr Hankey – The Christmas Poo from the 90s cartoon series South Park. Maybe the shitting log was the inspiration for Mr Hankey.

    That said, it is one of the strangest cultural traditions I’ve ever heard of. It’s right up there with men kidnapping their future wives in the Caucasus as a means of proposing to them.

    • my thoughts, exactly Matthew!! Was Mr Hanky shitting out prezzies for those little kids on the sly? I suppose we will never know…

    • I know Deborah – I had a really good laugh over this one.Then today, when I was out wandering, I came across a GIANT Caga Tio on a stage (had to be 10 feet long), where people were taking turns beating the log with long poles while singing a special “shitting” song, after which they collected their gift (a lollipop) and went happily on their way. More and more bizarre!

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