fredag 23 december 2011

El Tió, a Catalan Christmas tradition

In the Northeast corner of Spain lies the region of Catalonia were we live. The capital is Barcelona.

In old times in Catalonia when, like everywhere else, life was mostly rural, late in the night in Christmas Eve families were waiting for the moment to leave for the church to attend the “Missa del gall” (“Cock's Mass”) thus named due to the time at night when it was and still is celebrated.

One of the problems for the families was to keep the children awaken, since they were also expected to attend the Mass, one of the highest moments of the year.
In Catalonia, the great Christmas meal, with all the family around, is the lunch on the very 25. Therefore one could not rely on the dinner on the 24 “to gain time”.

To keep the children entertained by the fire, somebody, somewhere, decided to pick up one of the logs (“tió” in Catalan language!) intended for the fireplace and managed to convince the children that, if they hit it, the tió was going to poop out some presents, mostly sweets like turrons and golosinas (sweets).

different types of torrones



That´s why it is called “Caga tió”. (To poop is cagar) The children sing or say a verse while hitting the tió with a stick. The verse is, more or less like this:
 "Poop Tió, poop torrones, almonds and pinenuts,
don´t poop herrings, they are too salted, poop
torrones that they are better.
Poop Tió, poop turrones, if not I will
hit you with the stick.

In Catalonia, like in all Spain, important presents for the children are traditionally brought by the “Reis Mags” (“The Three Wise Men”) on the night of January 5.

In the old times they came by foot and on camels. And still they arrive in style. Here in Torredembarra they come by boat and then, by charriots, they proceed along the promenade by the beach when their Majesties give presents to the children who wait for them at a big tent. (The presents have been brought there by the parents beforehand). They also throw out tons of caramels while passing. Nowadays they also arrive from the Orient by plane!! Here they are, just arrived at the airport:

The tradition of the “Tió” was thus born and it continues today with every family adjusting it to its own customs. Children begin to feed the tió about 2 weeks before Xmas with peels of mandarins and other things from the table. All to make him fat, so he will poop a lot! Then, when the moment comes, one has to make the children go and do something, while one hides small presents and sweets under the blanket of the tió. In our house we tell the children to go to the bathroom and wet the stick well, otherwise it does not work!

Another funny custom that has to do with pooping is the “caganer”. A person who sits and poops in the Nativity scene.. The story is that when Jesus was born the world went on as usual and of course there were also some people doing their needs.
  Here the wise men pass a "caganer".
Now it is very popular to show famous people as “caganer”. Here for example Barças football player Messi!

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