He’s doing what?!

Don’t get me wrong, I take no offence at the figure of the caganer

Who was it who first had the idea to put a ****ing man in the nativity scene? Who is responsible for looking at that sacred representation of Jesus’ birth, the faces of Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, the donkey and even the baby Jesus himself – the man who would come to be known as a prophet, the son of god, and all the other epithets that have been bestowed upon him – and said “You know what? There’s something missing here.” And then went on to decide that the thing that was actually missing from that most deeply religious of scenes was a man in a Catalan hat dropping his pants and defecating in the corner, just a few metres from the crib?

Now the fact that this seemingly highly disturbed individual existed, for he or she clearly did, given the fact that the caganer figure really does exist, could be explained away by some kind of crazed desire to really offend a large number of people. But what takes a little more explaining is how someone else, a second individual, must have said “Yep, something clearly missing from the nativity scene, and you know what, you’re absolutely bang on, it’s a man *****ing in the corner. Why didn’t we think of that earlier? How could we have missed it? What an oversight on our part! Let’s get one in there straight away.” And then what takes most explaining is an entire population agreeing that this was indeed the best way to proceed with the nativity scene of Jesus coming into the world: by having him lying there in the crib while a man squats off to one side and unburdens himself of his load onto the stable floor.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not the religious type and take no offence whatsoever at the figure of the caganer. In fact, I wholeheartedly applaud its use extending to famous celebrities/politicians and the like. You know you’ve made it in Catalonia when you see a figure in your likeness taking a dump near the baby Jesus.

My point is not to criticise the invention, which dates back to the late 18th century by the way, but rather to question how it was not only conceived, but then adopted by a whole nation. This then leads to the question of why Catalans are so comfortable around the whole scatological issue. The caganer is of course a close relation of the caga tió, the yuletide log that poops out presents for children, or indeed, the whole family, on December 24 after you’ve “fed” it for several weeks. Again, how this idea came about – that of a lump of wood discharges gifts to ecstatic children – I have no idea, but can only wonder at the fact that an entire nation adopted it as a family Christmas tradition and now join together in song each year to beseech said log to relieve itself of its load on the living room floor. The truth is, this is my 24th Christmas in Catalonia and I still can’t quite get my head around it.

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