Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Catalans love their holiday crap


Nadal is the català for Christmas, and while it’s not really the main Christ-related holiday in Spain, people have slowly adopted Santa Claus and giving gifts on the 25th. But the Catalans won’t be suppressed! Or have a special day that doesn’t feature feces!

In Catalunya, they have a thing called the caga tió, which translates loosely as “shitting guy.” This character is usually represented by a log-shaped piece of wood with two wooden legs and a nose and sometimes a pipe. These creations must be wearing the traditional Catalan peasant hat (barretina), and are generally smiling.

caga tiós

Novelty-size caga tiós from my last nadal in BCN. Typical ones are log-sized.

“Whatever does one do with such items?” you are surely wondering. Well, you set up your tió in the main eating room of your home sometime before Christmas (accounts vary as to how long this must go on, days or weeks), you drape some kind of blanket or cloth over his back so he won’t get cold and you leave food and water for it every day.

Christmas day, the Catalan kiddies run up to the log, and while beating it repeatedly with a stick, they chant one of the songs created for precisely this occasion. And there are a lot to choose from. Here are two which I’ve translated:

Caga tió, [Shitting guy,]
caga torró, [shit some almond nougat,]
d’aquell tan bo. [that really good kind.]
Si no en tens més [And if you don’t have any more]
caga diners. [shit money.]
Si no en tens prou, [If you don’t have enough]
caga un ou. [shit an egg.]

Caga tió, [Shit, guy, (this is the imperative/command form of ‘shit’)]
sinó et donaré un cop de bastó! [if you don’t, I’ll hit you with a stick!]
Tió de Nadal, [Christmas Guy,]
caga turrons [shit almond nougat]
i pixa vi blanc! [and piss white wine!]
Tió de Nadal, [Christmas Guy,]
caga neules i turrons [shit cookies and almond nougat]
i pixa xampany! [and piss champagne!]

Turron/turró (I'm not a fan)

Turrón/torró (I’m not a fan)

Once the ritual pummeling is over, the children go away for a while and when they return, there are presents under the tió‘s blanket. (‘Cause he shit them out, see? He wasn’t eating all that food for nothing.) Traditional gifts were of the edible variety, hence all the references to food and drink in the songs, but now any stocking-stuffer-type item goes there: candy, small toys, books, whatever.

From what I gathered in my time among the Catalans, the origin of this charming tradition is that logs were long thought of as giving “gifts” (heat, light, fire for cooking) to those who had them in their homes, and that the modern caga tió is an extension of that same idea.

caga tio market

Display of caga tiós at the 2009 Christmas market in Barcelona

Take what you will from this story, but just remember to have a shitty Christmas!

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

11 thoughts on “Catalans love their holiday crap

  1. I needed that laugh. Hilarious! And I thought the Dutch with their Sinter Klaas that arrives from Spain via steamship with 6-7 black helpers was weird. The Catalans might just have them beat!

    Shitty Christmas to you too!

  2. Yes, it’s stunning. And the markets are full of these–making for a very odd shopping experience for the uninitiated!

  3. I was vaguely aware of this tradition, but didn’t know the whole story–thanks for the laugh and the, uh, education!

  4. Wow! Upon first reading I thought this story was full of shit. (Pun intended). Then I entered Caga Tio into Google and read all about it on Wikipedia (which always says true stuff) and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Hillarious. gross, violent and very peasantly all at the same time. LOL.

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