As Autumn well and truly sets in, with its carpets of leaves and with redheads everywhere relishing the fact that their wardrobe’s colour palette is once again in vogue, it’s only natural that we start to look ahead to Christmas’ threat of impending arrival.
I, for one, adore Christmas. Maturity has not yet diluted the wave of excitement that accompanies that first sighting of mince pies on the supermarket shelves. The music, the food, the weather, the family time, the food, Elf the movie, the presents, the food (did I mention the food?); Christmas is a time of unadulterated, waistband-increasing joy.
But if I have one bone to pick with the way that we celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year here in the UK – and I do – it would have to be our lack of a Christmas wooden log that poos out gifts. A log that the whole family can gather around, sing songs to, threaten with a good, old-fashioned stick beating, and encourage into excreting Xmas joy. I mean, I think we can all agree that this is the one, vital thing that Christmas is missing.
Thankfully, though, there is a culture that remains fully innocent of such a glaring oversight. Caga Tió (Poo Log), also known as Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log), exists. And he is a prominent and popular feature of Catalan festivities. Step aside, Santa; there’s a new gift giver in town.
Back in the day, Caga Tió would have been a simple, bare trunk of wood, foraged from the nearest woodland, but over the years he has evolved into a fully-fledged, cartoonish character. He has a painted, smiley face and two front legs. He wears a little red hat in homage to the barretina – the traditional Catalan headwear – and the children of the house are charged with the duty of looking after him.
His residence in Catalan homes begins on December 8th: the Feast of Immaculate Conception. From then on, it is the children’s job to keep him warm under a blanket and to nourish him. He needs to be cared for in readiness for his present-pooing duties on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on the family. Caga Tió is all about community, though, limiting his gift giving to things that can be shared out amongst the whole family such as sweets and nuts.
When the time does come for Caga Tió to present his wares, the family gather around to sing an intimidating song and beat him with a stick, making Santa’s plight of having to slide down chimneys start to sound like a walk in the park. They take it turns, after each round of the song, to reach under the blanket and retrieve whatever Caga Tió has produced (namely; whatever the parents have chosen to hide under there when the children’s backs were turned). The song in question has a number of variations, but the basic version is as follows:
"Caga tió, caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé et daré un cop de bastó. caga tió!"
Roughly translated, that goes something like:
“Poo, log! Poo nougat, Hazelnuts and cheese, If you don’t poo well, I’ll hit you with a stick. Poo, log!”