Monday, December 5, 2011

Tió de Nadal, a very different tradition

If you don’t know any Catalans, reading about their traditions would inspire anyone to think of them as funny people with queer traditions. I have so far explained the figure of the caganer in nativity scenes who is slightly provocative. Here is another Catalan tradition I still struggle to understand how it came to be associated with Christmas, even though I absolutely embrace it for its originality.

Students feed the log every morning
I refer to the famous Catalan Tió de Nadal, also known as Caga tió, also known as the Christmas log who shits. Children throughout Catalonia “feed” the log everyday in good faith that on Christmas Eve the log, after getting beaten with a stick, will “shit” candy. Yes, it sounds so forward to say shit, but that is exactly how it is said by little children and adults without even wincing.

This one has a full plate...

then it got hungry and ate.
While this tradition is practiced at home by some families, Catalan school teachers expose foreign children to a different Christmas time figure aside from Santa Claus. A few days ago I walked into my classroom while the Catalan teacher was explaining how the Christmas log must be fed every day so it can shit.

 Friend wearing a caga tió pin--I want one!
 Just like that. Even before she could finish her sentence one little bright eyed girl cut her off by blurting out, “Si, hem de donar-li de menjar perquè cagui!” I cringed when she said that, but there was no offense in how she said it or how she meant it. It was all so matter of fact; you must feed the log everyday so it shits. They obviously have no hang ups in using the word shit in context of the tradition.

Student working next to the caga tió
One end of the log has a painted smiling face and sports a red barretina. The other end of the log is covered with a blanket to hide the candy on Christmas Eve when the children sing and beat it. When the song is over the blanket is removed and the log has finally defecated sweet treats for the children.
This is the song children sing to the log while beating it:

El Tió

El Tió
Caga Tió,

Shit log,
caga torro,

shit nougat
d’ametlles o pinyó,

made of almonds or pine nuts,
no caguis arengades

do not shit herrings
que són massa salades,

that are way too salty,
caga torrons,

Shit nougats,
caga torrons que són més bons!

shit nougats which are better!
Caga Tió
Shit log,
caga torró,

Shit nougats
si no et donaré

or else I will give you
un cop de bastó!

a beating with a stick!

Fins ara!


  1. Dave and I are crying we are laughing so hard...I've never seen the song translated. Thanks patty. do you mind if I post this on my facebook page so my friends at home will better understand this tradition??

  2. Oh my gosh! This is so awesome!! Kathy, I am so glad you thought to recommend this. Patty, I like you already :)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Gràcies per compartir els teus pensaments!