14.12.2012 - 17.12.2012 14 °C
As promised, this is the Holiday edition of my blog! And by holiday I mean Christmas, since there is really only one holiday that is celebrated in Spain. They have some really fascinating traditions here in Catalunya (mostly having to do with pooping), so find the 10 year old boy in yourself and listen up!
The first Catalán tradition is called Caga Tío (Literally poop dude).
In the photo above, see the wooden figures in the bottom left. The tradition is that the log is placed in a common area in the house before the 8th of december (Day of the Immaculate Conception). The log is covered with a blanket, and every day between the 8th and the 25th small morsels are placed under the blanket by the adults of the family. Then, on the 25th, the children in the family sing one of a variety of songs that invariably command the log to poop! They also have special sticks with which they beat on the log to the beat of the song. After the song, the children reach under the blanket to grab a treat. So I would compare this tradition to stockings in the US, with smaller treats.
Also, there is the Catalán tradition of the Caganer (notice the similarity in their names). This one has a bit more concrete history, as it calls for the addition of a special figurine to the nativity scene: a man mid-defecation! The Cataláns I have talked to have no idea about the history of such an addition to the nativity scene (my Portuguese roommate offered: 'They're all crazy?') but wikipedia takes some speculative stabs at it if you are interested. The fact remains that the figurines are very popular. In the Christmas markets near the Catedral you can't find a stall without a Caganer. The traditional dress, includes a white shirt with a red neckerchief and red hat (bottom of the following photo).
They also love to make them potential collector's items, so you can find an Obama or Darth Vader or Lionel Messi, or Cookie Monster caganer if you so desire.
So there are your Catalán Christmas traditions! Along with these ridiculous things, I have encountered some interesting food as well (minus the poop, though). I was looking around the city for some gifts the other day when I ran into the biggest pot of soup I have ever seen:
And they were giving away free bowls! So of course I had two. The soup, called Sopa de Galets, is made up of large noodles, softened carrots, clear broth and large chunks of unidentified meat. I know that there are some interesting meats that are sold and eaten here, and I had a sneaking suspicion that this was the case here. Indeed, when I talked to a Catalán friend later in the day, he told me likely I had eaten pig ear and/or pig tail. Which might really disgust me, except that I really admire the willingness to not waste any part of the animal. And the meat wasn't bad tasting, but had a texture that fit nicely in between meat and cartilage. Don't get me wrong, if offered some again I wouldn't turn it down!
Finally, for a country in severe recession, they have put a lot of time and money into their Christmas lights and decorations. Every major street is lined with lights of different color and design, making for a very festive feeling. Now we could just use some snow!
Also, in Plaza de Sant Jaume, right in front of the Town Hall, in three large Christmas baubles, they have set up a series of Nativity scenes, including one of the Immaculate Conception, the journey of the three kings, and finally the classical nativity scene. Although the government and church have decided that they will not uphold the tradition of the caganer, he seems to have snuck his way in to the image of the Three Kings!
So much for the separation of church and state, huh? So there you have it-- Bon Nadal desde Cataluña!!
I am getting ready to depart for Porto, Portugal, tomorrow to spend Christmas with my roommate and his family, so I can imagine I will have lots to talk about upon returing to Barcelona! And with that, I will take my leave and (provided we make it past the end of the world in a few days) wish you and yours happy holidays! Hasta luego!