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Christmas in Barcelona – Defecating Statues and the “Poo Log” Instead of Santa Claus

Three Wise Men
Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Three Wise Men

The best way to experience the city‘s Christmas spirit and explore the slightly odd Catalan Christmas traditions is to go to the Saint Lucia Market.

Late November to December 23rd, this Christmas market can be found in Barcelona’s Cathedral Square. It’s been going on for more than two hundred years now, and has become a ritual celebration not only to Barcelonians, but also to many other inhabitants of Catalonia, who come to the market from every corner of the region.

Christmas market stall
Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Christmas market stall

The Saint Lucia Market smells like Christmas. Many of the stalls sell traditional Christmas plants that the Catalans use to decorate their homes with. Blooming branches of eucalyptus, bird glue, hawthorn and Christmas stars emit an aroma that brings back warm holiday memories.

Miniature nativity scenes and decorations are the main focus of the market. If you were to carefully explore what goods are sold in the nativity scene kiosks of Santa Lucia, you’d realise that Catalan people are downright crazy about making miniature nativity scenes. Miniature olive and lemon trees, realistic rivers and mountain ranges, artificial fire for the scene of the Christ’s birth, and Bethlehem’s watermills – this is only a handful of the thousands of little details.

Nativity scene
Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Nativity scene

All throughout the year, Catalans collect and refine nativity scene figurines, and then build the scenes themselves in their homes and churches as the holidays approach. Every Catalan settlement has at least one nativity scene maker’s association. During Christmas, it’s certainly worth looking for these authentic art works in Barcelona’s churches.

Every Catalan nativity scene has a character you won’t see anywhere else – his name is “the crapper” (or caganer in Catalan). It’s a Bible character, created by the Catalan people, who, according to legend, was in such a rush to welcome the new-born Jesus that he forgot to go to bathroom before leaving. For this reason, every nativity scene depicts him hiding behind a bush with his pants down and a steaming pile nearby.

Statues of footballers
Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Statues of footballers

Every year, the locals create hundreds of these “crappers”, so make sure to find their kiosk in the Saint Lucia Market. You’ll be surprised to see the countless statues of defecating, famous people, such as Pope Francis, Lionel Messi and Vladimir Putin. These go for 16 Euros a piece. The statues can also be bought online at http://www.caganer.com.

Remember – Catalan people are so attached to the ritual of defecation that the character which brings them gifts is not the Santa Claus (contemptuously called an “American invention” by obdurate Catalans), but the “poo log” (caga tio in Catalan)!

There are many kiosks in Satan Lucia selling differently-sized logs with a painted face and a red sock hat. These are the main source of joy for the Catalan children. The logs are brought home in mid-December, fed by children until Christmas, and then, on December 25th, whipped with rods and asked to “poop out” gifts.

Turrón with fruits
Photo taken by Travel On Spot.  Turrón with fruits

The smell of blooming eucalyptus, the cosiness of the miniature nativity scenes, the log, the traditional “crapper”… All that’s missing are sweet turons! These are traditional Spanish sweets made from crushed almonds and honey. They come in many different types: with hazelnuts, almonds, toasted egg yolk, chocolate and coconut. During Christmas, spectacular turon stores with windows bursting with variety and abundance can be found not just in Saint Lucia, but also in all of Barcelona. Bring back a bite of Catalan Christmas home with you.

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