Caga Tio

16 More Weird Christmas Traditions by Chris Hall

Burning the Devil in Guatemala....

Christmas can be a weird holiday....  I love it.  We’ve already covered the bizarre history of Saint Nicholas, investigated into Santa’s pagan origins and some of Santa’s weirder contemporaries, and we’ve explored some of his devilish companions and personal assistants.  We’ve also learned about Catalonia’s Caga Tio and El Caganer traditions and about Japan’s Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas tradition.  But this only the tip of the iceberg that is weird Christmas.  Here are 16 more weird Christmas traditions from around the world.  Merry Christmas everyone!

    

 

 


1.  South Africa – On Christmas Day many people will enjoy eating the deep-fried caterpillars of Emperor Moths….


2.  Norway – Here you must hide your broom on Christmas Eve lest it be stolen by a witch or evil spirit.


3.  Venezuela – In Caracas it is a tradition to go to Christmas Mass on roller skates.


4.  Greenland – Be sure to eat try one of these traditional Christmas dishes… Mattak:  raw whale skin served with blubber.  Kiviak:  500 dead auk birds stuffed inside a seal skin and left to ferment for seven months.


5.  Germany – Here it is a tradition to hide a pickle inside the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  The first child to discover it in the morning will receive a small gift.


6.  Ukraine – The Christmas trees are not hung with tinsel and ornaments, but with a fake Christmas Spider and spider’s webs.


7.  Czech Republic – When a lady stands by a door and throws a shoe over their shoulder, and if the shoe toe is pointing toward them, then the lady will be married in the coming year.


8.   Estonia – It is a tradition in Estonia for families to go to the sauna together on Christmas.


9.  Wales – Small villages will perform a Mari Lwyd ritual on Christmas Eve where a lucky villager is chosen to parade through town with the skull of a mare hoisted on the end of a long stick.

Burning the Devil - photo by Santiago Billy Prem

Burning the Devil - photo by Santiago Billy Prem


10.  Guatemala – Here it is a tradition to sweep out the house before Christmas.  Each neighborhood will create a big pile of dirt and place an effigy of a devil on top, which is then burnt.


11.  Greece – A race of evil goblins called the kallikantzaroi are said to leave their underground dwellings and wreak havoc over the twelve days leading up to Christmas.


12.  Slovakia – The most senior man of the house will take a spoonful of loksa pudding and throw it at the ceiling.  The more that sticks the better.


13.  Finland – Here it is a tradition to honor the dead by lighting candles and leaving them in the grave yards.


14.  Austria – In Gresten people will dress up as Krampus, and parade around town hoping to scare children.

USA Running of the Santas.jpg


15.  USA – Some cities will enact a Running of the Santas, where groups of people dressed as Santa Claus will make a boozy bar crawl.

South Africa Danny Ghost.jpg


16.  South Africa – It is a tradition to tell the story of Danny, who upset his grandmother by eating the cookies left out for Santa Claus.  The grandmother becomes so upset that she kills Danny.  Danny is said to haunt homes on Christmas.


Unusual Christmas Traditions: Caga Tio and El Caganer by Chris Hall

A cartoon featuring both a Caga Tio and a Caganer figure.

Caga Tio

In Catalonia and neighboring parts of Spain, the Yule log tradition has taken on rather scatological connotations.  It is called Caga Tio, or “Shitting log,” and consists of a hollowed out log about 30 cm in length.  The log is propped up with two legs, tripod style, with the high end painted with a smiling face and embellished with a three dimensional nose.  The Caga Tio is complete with a hat with a little red sock hat and a blanket to keep it warm.  

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th, one begins to “feed” the Caga Tio a little bit each night until Christmas Day.  On Christmas Day one puts the back end of the Caga Tio into the fireplace and orders it to defecate.  To make it defecate one beats the Caga Tio with a stick while singing songs about the Caga Tio.  The Caga Tio begins to drop candy, nuts, and other small items, whatever was secretly placed into mouth of the log during the preceding days.  When there is nothing left to “shit,” the Caga Tio usually drops a salted herring, a head of garlic, or an onion.  It may also “urinate” a bowl of water.  The gifts left behind by Caga Tio tend to be smaller gifts.  Larger gifts are delivered by the Three Wise Men.

A Lady Gaga Caganer

El Caganer 

El Caganer means “The Shitter” in Catalonia.  It is a tradition dating back to the 17th century and is found in Catalonia, neighboring parts of Spain and France, Portugal, and parts of Southern Italy around the city of Naples.  El Caganer is a small figurine of someone with their pants dropped and shitting, which is then hidden in the Christmas Nativity scene.  Traditionally the figurine is depicted as a peasant wearing the Catalan red cap or “barretina.”  In the region where El Caganer is common, the Nativity scene doesn’t just include the manger scene, but rather the entire town of Bethlehem, with outlaying scenes which might include a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds tending their sheep or walking towards the manger bearing gifts, the Three Wise Men approaching on horseback, an annunciation scene with an angel, etc.  But sometime during the Baroque period in 1600’s, El Caganer was introduced.  

Some people have interpreted El Caganer’s presence to mean that he represents equality among all people.  Regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone shits.  It might also suggest the idea that God will manifest Himself whenever He is ready, without regard for whether we human beings are ready or not.  Others have thought El Caganer reinforces the belief that the Jesus is God in human form, with all that being human implies.  Of course it may also just be that we are reading too much into it, and the original Caganer was a sick prank.  Many modern Caganers represent celebrities and authority figures, such as clergy, royalty, pop stars, and politicians.  By representing them with their pants down, El Caganer serves as a device to bring the high and mighty down to our level.  

You can print out the image below and make your own Caganer!