Catalonia christmas traditions: The oddly fun Catalan Christmas traditions

The oddly fun Catalan Christmas traditions

Catalan Christmas traditions are a bit peculiar. If there’s one thing that we Catalans are obsessed with during the Christmas festivity, this is poo. Yes we know it’s weird but don’t judge us yet. We’ll explain you where all this craziness comes from and maybe you’ll end up buying into these traditions! And hey! Not all of our traditions are related to feces, specially the culinary ones (thank God)!

Okey, let’s get into them!

Catalan Christmas traditions

Caga Tió (the pooping log)

Picture this. You’ve decided to spend your Christmas holidays in Catalonia and you go to a Christmas market. As you are walking through the stalls, surrounded by beautiful lights, breathing in the crisp air, you feel a presence; someone is watching you. You slowly realise that most of what you though were Christmas decorations, are actually hundreds of wooden logs wearing a barretina hat, smiling and looking at you. While you’re trying to guess if their weird smile is a friendly one or just a creepy line, some kids with sticks in their hands, run towards one of the logs and start hitting them while singing songs.

Well, as weird as it might seem, this is not the plot of any terror movie or a sectary ritual. This is Christmas in Catalonia!

While children in other countries are happy with hanging up a Christmas stocking and hoping that Santa will make all their wishes come true, kids in Catalonia go further. They have to work their asses off on getting their gifts.

In the days before Christmas, Catalan children make sure that the Tió has everything it needs to make a good poo. They cover it with a warm blanket and feed it with clementines, chocolate and cookies, which the parents happily eat at night when the children don’t see them. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

On Christmas Eve (a.k.a the defecation night), it’s when the Tió – well, you guessed it – excretes presents. Kids gather around the Tió with a stick in their hand and start to beat the shit out of it while singing a traditional song imploring the log to dump various goodies. The song goes like this:

“Caga Tió, Tió de Nadal, no caguis arengades que són salades, caga torrons que són molt bons”

Which translates to something like:

“Poo Tió, Christmas Tió, don’t poo herrings, they’re too salty, poo nougat, it’s delicious”

After the kids have smacked the resilient log good and proper, they lift the blanket and uncover all the gifts that have magically appeared. The Tió only drops what children from other locations would think are stocking-fillers, such as sweets, socks, undies, or sweet “coal”, a Spanish candy with a crunchy texture and a pleasant almond flavour. The biggest gifts are usually given on January 6 by the Three Kings.

Caganer (the Christmas ‘crapper’)

Our Catalan ancestors, not content with one faeces symbolism during the festive season, went on and created another one: the caganer.  We’re sure you’ve probably seen it or heard about this fantastic character. The caganer is a figurine of a peasant wearing a barretina (a traditional red Catalan hat), squatting and mooning while he answers to nature’s call.

This alone is weird enough, but where the story really gets bizarre is when you know the traditional spot to place the caganer. This funny little fellow is placed in the middle of the holy nativity scene, where he sees fit to drop his sh*t in the presence of the newborn Jesus, his holy parents, and an adoring cast of angels and shepherds.

Although its origins are a bit murky, it’s thought that the caganer is actually a symbol of fertility and is considered good luck! Because when healthy excrement is added to the soil, more nutritious crops grow after.

You’ll find little statuettes of the caganer relieving his bowels in most Catalan Christmas’ markets. Nowadays, he is such a popular character that many celebrities and public figures are honoured to be portrayed as a Christmas ‘crapper’. Singer and songwriter Rosalía, football player Leo Messi, film director Woody Allan… you name it!

Such is his cult status here that caganers even have their own association! It’s called Amics del Caganer (Caganer’s Friends). They make sure to give visibility to this important character and organise activities related to him.

👌🏼 Our tip

We guess the question that springs to mind now is “Where can I get a Shakira caganer?“. We’ve got you covered! We have a whole blog post about the Christmas markets in Catalonia where you can find this cheeky chappy in all its forms.

If you want a caganer so badly you can’t wait to come here, we’ve some good news for you: has a wide range of caganers and delivers them worldwide.

Photo by Ajuntament de Barcelona

Pessebre (Catalan nativity scene)

Catalans like to work extra when adorning the house for the Christmas festivity. If decorating the Christmas tree wasn’t enough, Catalans also spend a fair amount of time setting up the pessebre. The pessebre is nothing more than a representation of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and its name refers to the manger, or the crib, where Christ was born.

When setting up the pessebre, you can be as creative as you want. For example, you can either use water to make the river (which is rather difficult) or use aluminium foil instead. What about snow? Of course it was snowing when God’s son came to the world! For that, some flour will do the trick.

Oh, never ever forget the caganer in the pessebre! No one knows who had the brilliant idea of putting a defecating peasant among the persons witnessing Jesus’ arrival, but it’s one of the Christmas scatological oddities we love the most!

Missa del Gall (Rooster’s Mass)

The Missa del Gall, literally translated as Rooster’s Mass, is the Catholic mass celebrated at midnight on Christmas Day. That’s it. Just a mass that happens after people pigged out on all the delicious food of Christmas Eve’s dinner.

The name of this mass comes from the widespread belief that the only time a rooster crowed at midnight was on Christmas Day when Jesus was born. No roosters inside the church, don’t worry.

Eating twelve grapes in New Year’s Eve

When clocks strike midnight on New Year’s Eve, people from across the world greet the New Year by popping champagne, setting off fireworks, or kissing and hugging their loved ones. But all of this has to wait in Catalonia. The first twelve seconds of the Catalans’ New Year are somewhat more intense, as we’re too busy stuffing twelve “miraculous grapes” in our mouths.

Just before midnight, the bells ring out four times in quick succession. You wouldn’t be the first to start cramming the grapes in your mouth, but patience! You have to ignore those four chimes. After a slight pause, a series of 12 chimes begin, one for each month of the year.

There is little time to chew and swallow, even much less to savour. About two seconds after stuffing the first grape in your mouth, there’s a second dong, and a second grape gets popped into the mouth. And on through 12 chimes.

It’s no easy task getting the 12 grapes down in time. By grape number six or seven, things start getting complicated. The giggles kick in, and people start making gagging noises. By grape eight or nine, the giggles turn into hysterical laughs, complicating the things even more. Eating the grapes pretty much guarantees to start off the year with a bit of adrenaline rush!

What’s the secret to finishing the grapes, then? Some have the trick of shoving all of the grapes in their mouth at once. Worries about swallowing them later. You might imagine that such a strategy is easier to plan than to execute. Others say the trick is to not chew, just take a solid bite and then swallow, pips and all. Then, there are those people who painstakingly remove the seeds beforehand or buy the small cans of 12 seedless peeled grapes sold in supermarkets. It all comes down to the level of challenge you’re after!

When the 12 chimes finish, and the last of the grapes has been swallowed (or not), it’s time for hugs, well-wishing calls, and a toast with cava. All of that while the most expensive commercials of the year play on TV.

And why all this fuss? Well, it’s all a matter of luck, and rare is the person who will risk poisoning their fate for the coming year by skipping the grapes.

Reis d’Orient (the Three Kings)

Unlike other countries, Christmas time in Catalonia doesn’t finish with the beginning of the new year. We wanted more! After making a pig of ourselves with endless Christmas meals and having a hard time dealing with New Year’s Eve’ hangover, it’s time for another celebration: the arrival of the Three Magic Kings.

The Three Kings were three wise men that embarked on an adventure to find the holy Messiah and bring him precious gifts. Fortunately, they kept their trousers up! Guided by a star – no Google Maps available at the time, they found the newborn Jesus and offered him gold, incense and myrrh.

On the evening of the 5th of January, a parade takes place in every Catalan city and village. You’ll see the mineworkers who make carbon for those who haven’t behaved well enough, the helpers who collect the letters the kids have written to the Kings, and the Three Kings themselves! Melcior (white beard), Gaspar (brown beard) and Baltasar (no beard and dark skin) are ready for a tough night of non-stop deliveries. During the parades, the different characters throw sweets at the people watching and greeting them. Don’t forget to bring a bag to collect them if you go to see a parade. And careful with your head; you don’t want to end up with a contusion caused by candy!

On Jan 6, the presents are waiting under the Christmas tree. Children run to their parent’s bedroom, waking them up early and ruining a day they could have used to sleep for hours because it’s time to open the presents!

Tortell de Reis

After everyone unwraps all the presents brought by the nice Three Kings, a family lunch usually comes after. Nothing special about lunch, we eat it every day. What’s particular and worth mentioning is the dessert. As a dessert, we eat a special doughnut-shaped cake called the Tortell de Reis. It’s a ring-shaped cake, with glazed fruit and stuffed with marzipan and cream.

So far, so good. Nothing weird, no poo involved! What’s strange about this cake, then? Hidden somewhere inside the cake, there’s a broad bean and a small figurine of a king. Hey, it’s forbidden to look inside the cake before eating it! No cheating, please. While eating it, someone will be fortunate enough to find the king. Someone else, though, will have the miserable luck of finding the broad bean. The tradition says that whoever finds the broad bean must pay for the cake, whereas the one that has found the king will be crowned king for that day.

We know we’re biased, but we love the way we celebrate Christmas. If after learning about our traditions, you find yours a bit boring, it’s time to adopt ours and level up your Christmas celebration!

More Christmas inspiration

Are you coming to Catalonia during Christmas? Then, these guides will help you plan your trip:

  • Christmas in Catalonia: Special days, what to do and how do we celebrate it
  • Christmas markets in Catalonia

Five traditions you didn’t know about Christmas in Catalonia

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Many Catalan traditions seem very weird to foreigners, but all of them have an interesting origin.

Find out about them!


Caga Tió, a true must in the Catalan Christmas

You must be wondering: what’s the Caga Tió? Pronounced “Cacka-tee- oh”, it means “Poo Log”. Yes, we know, very scatological… But Christmas in Catalonia wouldn’t be the same without this tradition.

This small wooden log with a smiley face wears a Barretina, the traditional red Catalan hat and it’s covered with a blanket to keep it warm. Children feed the Caga Tió with turrón (a Spanish Christmas sweet) every night until Christmas Eve. That evening they softly beat the Caga Tió with a stick while they sing:

“Caga tió, caga torró, avellanes i mató, si no cagues bé et daré un cop de bastó. Caga tió!”

Shit, log, shit nougats, hazelnuts and mató cheese, if you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick, shit, log!

Then, they reach under the Caga Tió’s blanket to find gifts and treats.

The Caganer, a very unique Catalan character.

And here comes the second pooping character of Christmas in Catalonia: the Caganer, which means “The Pooping Man”. It’s been around for the last two centuries and it’s an essential figurine in every Nativity Scene in Catalonia. This figurine is typically hidden somewhere among the
traditional characters of the Manger Scene, and children have fun playing a game which consists in trying to find it!

The Caganer is a sign of good luck, as its poop represents the fertilization of the lands for providing a good harvest for the year to come. Around Christmas time, trendy politicians, celebrities, soccer players… are turned into Caganer figurines.

Check them out here , LMAO!

The Nativity Scene

Spain has a large Catholic tradition, that’s why it isn’t a surprise that almost every family has a Nativity Scene in the living room. It represents the commemoration of the birth of Christ and the Three Wise Men bringing presents to the newborn.

Turrón: The most traditional Spanish Christmas Sweet

The turrón has existed for a long time – at least 500 years. The Moors invented it in Jijona, a little town in Alicante. Most of Spain was invaded in the early Middle Ages until the 15th  century. Nowadays there are many kinds of turrón, but the original ones were only two: a soft, very smooth
one that has a texture like frozen peanut butter, and a harder one that looks like a thick almond nougat, similar to a peanut brittle. Both are delicious! The main ingredients are: honey, almonds, eggs, sugar and cinnamon.

More than 15 million tons of turrón are produced yearly in Spain… Christmas in Catalonia wouldn’t be the same without this candy!

Sant Esteve Holiday (Stephen’s Day)

Sant Esteve takes place on December 26th , it’s an official holiday and a very important one during Christmas in Catalonia, since it’s one of the most important days to be with the family. There is a Catalan song that says:

“Per Nadal, cada ovella al seu corral; per Sant Esteve, cada ovella a casa seva”

(For Christmas, each sheep to its yard; for Saint Esteban, each sheep to its house).

This day is traditionally spent with family over a great meal in which the main course is cannelloni, usually stuffed with a kind of meat.

Christmas in Catalonia is very special, so we hope to see you soon here!

PS: we promise you will embrace the Catalan “pooping” traditions 😉


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The most amazing Christmas traditions in Catalonia

The most amazing Christmas traditions in Catalonia

Every culture and region has its own way of celebrating Christmas , and the Catalan territory is no exception: a log in which gifts are defecated, a special figurine in a nativity scene and a traditional dish made from leftover food after Christmas. Discover the most amazing and unique Christmas traditions in Catalonia !

Assemble a nativity scene

In Catalonia, as in all of Spain, it is customary in the first days of December to arrange a nativity scene depicting the birth of the baby Jesus with figures. The peculiarity of the Catalan nativity scene is that it has an additional figurine caganer . This figurine of a crap man is usually placed quite discreetly, and in some Christmas markets or nativity shops they can be found with the faces of personalities such as politicians, football players or artists.

Visit a living nativity scene

In addition to setting up a nativity scene at home, it is customary in Catalonia to celebrate living nativity scenes , when the city’s residents bring nativity figures to life representing the time of Jesus’ birth. Take the opportunity to visit some of the most popular live nativity scenes in Catalonia, such as Corbera de Llobregat (Barcelona), Gunyoles d’Avignon (Barcelona), Castell d’Aro (Girona), Pals (Girona) and Peralada. (Girona).

Make Tió crappy gifts

Christmas Eve is one of the most unique Christmas celebrations in Catalonia. In most Catalan houses, instead of waiting for Santa Claus to arrive, we give crappy presents Tió . Tió is a two-legged wooden chest with a smiley face and covered with a blanket that kids poke with sticks while they sing a song to give gifts. During the previous weeks, the children should take care of his feeding so that he can bring them gifts.

Eating cannelloni in Sant Esteve

December 26, is a public holiday in Catalonia because Sant Esteve is celebrated. On this day, families usually get together and it is customary to eat a plate of cannelloni , made from leftover meat after a New Year’s Eve or Christmas dinner, where dishes made from a wide variety of meats such as escudella ( escudella ) are usually eaten and carn d olla ( carn d’olla ). After the meal, traditional desserts such as polvorons , nougat or neules (a kind of tubular waffles) are not to be missed.

Visit Pastorets

Pastorets – a typical theatrical performance of the Catalan Christmas holidays, in which scenes of evil and demons are combined, scenes of the birth of Jesus, struggles and demons are combined shepherds dialogues, reminiscent of the first Christmas. The most famous of them are l’Amella de Merola (Barcelona), Berga (Barcelona), La Garriga (Barcelona) or Mataro (Barcelona).

Stroll through the Christmas market

During December in Catalonia you can also visit the many Christmas markets and markets with all kinds of local crafts such as toys, accessories, decorations and ceramics, as well as foods such as sausages, cheeses, sweets and nougat. In some markets, you can even find Christmas decorations such as nativity figures, tions , lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Visit our Christmas Markets post for of the best markets in the province of Girona and Costa Brava.

Farewell to the year by eating twelve grapes chimes, which symbolize the twelve months of the year. This night is usually celebrated at home with family or friends, but increasingly in the main squares of the country. This custom has become so popular that it is also celebrated in Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia and Peru.

If you want to know more about how this season is celebrated in Catalonia, you can read the publication Rosamar Hotels about typical Christmas events in Catalonia .

Gift a holiday on the Costa Brava

This Christmas, take the opportunity to gift a holiday on the coast of Girona with Rosamar Hotels . If you are looking for a family hotel or prefer a romantic getaway with your loved one , in our hotels in Lloret de Mar you will find maximum comfort to spend those days with the ones you love the most.

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The most curious Christmas traditions of Catalonia

Christmas in Catalonia is celebrated merrily and on a grand scale, living in Spain for the 15th year, I never cease to admire and wonder how diverse the traditions are, how cheerfully and at the same time seriously the Europeans approach any holidays . I can’t help but share with you his highlights and the funniest Catalan New Year jokes!!!

Did you know that the role of Santa Claus in Catalonia is played by a “pooping log” called: Tío de Nadal, and that the pooping man figurines are given not to bad guys, but to best friends for good luck?!!-) on the night before the chimes do not burn a napkin with wishes, convulsively washing it down with Soviet Champagne, but eat 12 delicious grapes, making not one, but as many as 12 (!!!) wishes! Or what is being prepared for the Winter Holidays not in the last days of frosty December, but starting from the 8th day of the last month of the year – celebrating the Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. By the way – this day is an official holiday in all of Spain. And starting from December 8, they decorate houses, city streets, and start thinking about gifts..

Instead of the New Year tree in Spain, they make up a Nativity scene, buying moss, collecting wooden boxes, Europeans create the scene of the birth of Jesus. At Christmas, it is customary to give each house, coming to visit – a Christmas flower for good luck and green berries for well-being.

On the eve of Christmas, all of Spain queues at lottery kiosks to try their luck, local residents and, of course, tourists acquire lottery tickets. the most cherished desire is to finally stop working and live for your own pleasure, and there are a lot of them here: both those who wish and pleasures!-)

On the last night of the outgoing year, it is customary to put on new underwear, which must be red, and after the holiday, it must be burned. Good luck, you know -)

We will talk about all this with you, friends, on these holidays!!! Let me be your guide and storyteller for a bit)


So, the most unusual Christmas traditions

Tío de Nadal/ Kaga Tio

What kind of animal is this in Christmas Catalonia?

This tradition dates back to the distant Middle Ages, when houses were heated with stoves and fireplaces. It was believed before, and to this day, that Christmas night from December 24 to December 25 is the coldest time of the year. So, for this most important, festive, but painfully cold night, they prepared the biggest fire. And it was kept not in a shed at the entrance, but in a place of honor near the fireplace. Then they began to revive him and do different, funny things with him. On the one hand, they drew a funny face on the burnt, put a red cap on the “head”, covered it with a blanket, for warmth and comfort. And the little inhabitants of the house, believing in magic, put orange peels, bread, put milk … So that the loggers would live so warmly and pleasantly. On Christmas Eve, the main “miracles” began: kind children acquired long sticks and began with all their might (I still hope that it was a joke) – bludgeoning their wooden friend, while drinking a cheerful song:

Caga tió
ametlles i torró
no caguis arangades
que son massa salades
9034 caga torrons 0 que son més bons . …..

Which means something like this: “Kakai Uncle, nougat and sweets, delicious turron, we don’t need sallowness, we don’t like them. Give us more sweets, otherwise we’ll beat you with sticks !!!” Well, as expected, the good Uncle – fulfilled the whims of demanding children, “bringing” mountains of Turrons and sweets! Happy New Year and Bon Nadal, as we say in Catalonia :)))

Caganer / Kakun

This figurine of a funny little man in the clothes of a Catalan peasant with his pants down – it is customary to give each other not as a sign of resentment or indignation, as one might assume at first glance, such a mild version: “Ah, I wanted to poop on all of you!” And, for the joy and well-being of the family. In like, they are in Catalonia-). I can assume that when inquisitive travelers first saw hundreds of Caganers on the shelves of the Barcelona Christmas Fair, and several large “people” in natural human growth urinating, sitting on the roofs of the Christmas market stalls near the main Cathedral of the city – they almost fainted from this action. ..)) My reaction was the same many years ago, but… now I treat this character with humor and a smile.

This figurine has many meanings, one of them is that God accompanies each of us every minute of our stay on earth, always loving and caring for us. in every house of the Catalans, but is also an indispensable attribute of the Christmas Nativity scene. Of course, not in a place of honor in front of everyone, but somewhere out there – on a hillock or under a bush. Modestly, the little man is sitting, having lowered his trousers..

Los Reyes Magos/ Magic Kings

Oh, this is perhaps one of the most solemn and bright events in the life of Christmas Catalonia (and all of Spain in general!) Kings!!! It happens on January 5th every year!

According to the Biblical story, which is known to every upright Christian, when Jesus was born in a small barn in Bethlehem, a star lit up in the sky with a bright light, showing the Magi the way to the birth of God.

Catholics took this beautiful story from the Gospel as the basis of this bright holiday. And they didn’t fail! Hundreds of thousands of people, children take to the streets of Barcelona in order to enjoy the colorful procession of the Kings through the streets of the old city! This is not just a movement of dressed up artists, but a real ball – a masquerade! With the participation of artists and clowns, with the distribution of caromels and sweets in unlimited quantities, with music and fireworks. Like all holidays – the Spaniards celebrate the Day of the Kings especially noisy, bright and fun!!!

Without a doubt, this is the most anticipated holiday of the year for all the little ones. Fun, fun, but not for everyone… It turns out that those of the children who had misbehavior in the outgoing year – they get only black color coal (!!), and not the desired and long-awaited gifts… How cruel! – exclaim my good reader! And he will be absolutely right! Therefore, they decided to equalize this inequality by giving the most playful children something really black, reminiscent of real coal for kindling a stove, but at the same time it is magical – because you can eat it! It turns out that this is nothing but a kind of New Year’s sweets from the Kings for the most naughty and little inhabitants of the Kingdom of Spain!

In general, it is worth noting that sweets: turrons, cookies, chocolate, caramels, all kinds of pastries are in abundance here.