A Catalan Christmas In Gloucestershire

Dec. 20, 2012, South Gloucestershire, England: The Tió de Nadal is an important Catalan Christmas tradition.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Whacking a log with a stick to make it poop? It doesn't sound like something you'd do to celebrate Christmas, but it's a tradition that my children and I have adopted from our eight-year stay in Catalonia, Spain, and one that we transported to France for two years and now to England.

On Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, our Tió de Nadal (little Christmas log) appears by the fireplace. The log, popularly called Caga Tió, which translates as "pooping log," has a perky face and a little red hat, a barretina, set at a jaunty angle. He is fed and watered from Dec. 8 through Dec. 23. At bedtime we cover him with a red or tartan blanket to keep him cozy. On Christmas Eve we will gather around Tió and, at first, gently tap him with a stick as we sing Tió's song:

Caga Tió, Tió de Nadal, no caguis arengades,
Que son massa salades,
Caga turrons! Que son mes bons.

Christmas Log, Christmas Log. Don't poop sardines,
They are too salty.
Poop turrons (nougat)! They are much better.

The pace and force of hitting pick up, with a final blow from the youngest member of the family to persuade Tió to poop some candy underneath his blanket, which of course he does, usually turron, a nougat-like confection.

We have also adopted a special little chap from Catalonia who sits in our manger, barretina on his head and back turned to the nativity scene, baring his bottom to one and all as he pulls down his trousers. This is the Caganer, or pooping man, a regular in every Catalan nativity scene. With trousers down he squats at the back of the barn to...poop (and, yes, he came with a tiny plastic offering). Even as the Messiah is born, the Catalans believe that nothing should distract man from giving back nourishment to the ground on which we depend.

Lucy Culpepper

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