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Catalonia: the strange passion for poop

In Catalonia, the poop lives an unexpected protagonism that starts from the crib and reaches the toys, passing through chains of shops dedicated to Caganer.


Many unexpected discoveries can come from lazy loitering between the Christmas markets and those of Santa Lucia, a tradition deeply rooted in Barcelona and Catalonia. Not Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, perhaps, but curious though perhaps not suitable for an anecdote at dinner time. 

What happens in fact is that what appears to be a return to childhood linked to the protagonism of poop at the least opportune moments, becomes in Catalan soil an element perhaps not central but rather relevant in the crib. Yes, because next to the traditional hut, the mill, the small pond with ducks, the sheep in line towards the unreachable pasture, at a certain point, a little secluded, a shepherd appears dressed in traditional regional clothes intent on defecating. 

If this were to happen in an Italian Christmas representation, probably some newspaper would dedicate the first page to the desecration of the nativity caused by the social degradation and the new course of the Church of Rome. And instead in Catalonia the tradition of Caganer has an ancient history, which would begin between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, accomplice the spread of the Baroque and the exaltation of realism and naturalness of an action that, Apparently, it would bring good luck and put off the fertility of the fields and therefore good luck for the following year.

This thing of Caganer is not a deviance of some disturbed person: at the market of Saint Lucia, in front of the cathedral of Barcelona, there are at least 5 different stands of the company that has thrown itself on the business of the cagone shepherd. 

Corporal phenomenon that then, beauty of marketing, is exonerated up to involve every public figure of the globe: you can then find the Pope, Iron Man, Robert De Niro or other celebrities and Spanish politicians intent on freeing the intestines outdoors. What will the lucky buyers of these marvels of modern art do with it, we just can’t imagine.

And anyway, it’s not just the shepherd boy throwing propitiatory poop on Catalan Christmas. There is also another traditional character, the Caga Tió, a large and disturbing wooden trunk, with human features, which is laid out and covered with a plaid in the middle of the living room. 

The piece of wood - don’t think of Pinocchio, it doesn’t look like him - is brought into the house in the first days of Advent and the children have to take care of it and feed it until Christmas. On the night of the eve or December 25, the children will sing the special song and will beat the inanimate but anthropomorphic piece of wood, which... will shit out sweets and gifts. A seemingly bizarre custom (why should a piece of wood defecate sweets?) to which the coach of Barcelona, the Catalan Xavier Hernández, also gave prominence.

This strange attention to poop and similar bodily functions also affects another aspect of Christmas, namely toys. Wandering around shopping malls and specialty stores, you will be quite struck by how much shit... that is how important the toilets and related activities are. 

It is probably not an exclusive Catalan or local product, but in that part of Spain the assortment seems wider. For example, we have the interactive turtle Gotta Go Turdle, which cheerfully and carefree sings and entertains children while performing its functions sitting on the toilet.

The game is to feed Shelbert and watch her poop in the bowl. Even more explicit Johnny Cagoni, "the most smelly and fun game": in this case the extroverted character with impaled eyes is fighting with a chemical bath. 

Players are asked to "throw a card, imitate the fart and turn the knob. If Johnny blows up you will have lost and the stinky toilet paper will fly towards you". Tell the truth, you can’t wait to indulge this primordial Catalan passion...



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios