The Caganer: the pooping figure in the nativity scene

Tió, the present shitting tree log is not the only scatological Christmas tradition in Catalunya. In fact, a while before tió gets around to delight everyone by pooping presents after receiving a good beating, the caganer (lit. “the pooper”) is already doing his business in nativity scenes around Catalunya.

The Caganer is typically wearing black trousers, a white shirt and, of course, the typical red Catalan hat called the “barretina” and is shown while emptying his bowels, often while smoking a pipe. He is hidden somewhere among the more common figures in the nativity scene like Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men, the shepherds, animals etc, usually outside but close to the manger, often behind a tree.

traditional caganerThe typical look of the Caganer, little crapper, only the smoking pipe is missing.

Nobody really knows why and when the Caganer first appeared in the nativity scene, but the tradition most likely goes back as far as the end of the 17th century.   There are many explanations for how the Caganer came into existence. Most commonly, it is supposed that the little crapper originally was a symbol for fertility and was placed in the nativity scene to bring luck, a bountiful harvest, prosperity and joy in the coming year. Others argue, that the Caganer is a symbol of equality, as everyone, regardless of position, status, gender, race etc. has the same need the Caganer depicts so vividly. Another explanation is, that it makes an idealized story much more real and believable.

In more recent history, the Caganer has got company: Often you can find a Pixaner alongside the Caganer in the nativity scene nowadays. The Pixaner is the peeing counterpart to the Caganer. The little figures have become such a phenomenon and part of culture, that you can buy Caganer and Pixaner figures of all kinds: You can find Caganers of policemen, bridal pairs, doctors, fictional characters like Asterix, all kinds of celebreties like sports heroes like Lionel Messi, politicians like Angela Merkel, musicians like Elvis, Shakira or Michael Jackson, the Queen, historic characters like Columbus and even the Pope (Holy shit!!)… you name it! However, the original Caganer (which by the way, contrary to the celebrity ones, is always male) is still the most commonly used one.

caganer_obamaCan I have an Obama Caganer? Yes, you can!

You may be surprised to read, that the Catholic Church approves of the Caganer as it recognizes the cultural value of the tradition. After all, the little crapper makes the nativity scene a lot more entertaining as not only children have a lot of fun looking for the Caganer (and more recently also the Pixaner) and it always makes people smile.




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