Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

AncientPages.com - Most of us would think twice before placing this little pooping guy known as Caganer at home during Christmas. Our friends and family might think we have an odd sense of humor and there seems to be nothing Christian about him at all.

The situation and views are completely different in Catalonia. This can be surprising to some, but Caganer, the pooping man is accepted by the Catholic Church in Catalonia within the areas where the Caganer is popular.

Caganer is a respected Christmas figure one can find him in all homes in Catalonia. He is a part of the Catalonian Christmas tradition and has been so for a very long time.

The exact origin of the Caganer is unknown, but the tradition has existed since at least the 18th century.

Most people in Catalonia have no idea how Caganer became part of the Christmas tradition, but each house buys a figure every year.

Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

Left: Image credit: Caganer Shop - Right: Image credit: Wikipedia

For at least the past two centuries, the traditional nativity scene in Catalonia has been enhanced by a Caganer. The Caganer is never in the front of the nativity scene. That would be a lack of respect.  He is often hiding in a corner doing his business whilst the birth of Christ. The name "El Caganer” literally means "the crapper" or "the shitter".

A polite translation of El Caganer would be The Defecator and he is normally dressed in the traditional Catalan peasant clothing of a white shirt, black trousers and a red faixa and barretina and is often smoking a pipe.

Why Is A Pooping Man Part Of The Nativity Scene?

Originally, El Caganer wasn't a figure in the nativity scene. He was only depicted on tiles, but from the 19th century onward he became a popular as a nativity character.

How he entered the nativity scene is uncertain, but according to one theory this has to do with the fact that Catalans traditionally referred to new-born babies as caganers because they do little else other than eat, sleep and defecate.

Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

The traditional Caganer. Image credit: Barcelonas.com

Consequently, when visitors came around at Christmas, they would look at the nativity scene and ask their hosts "Have you put in the caganer yet?" referring to the baby Jesus.

At some point an imaginative manufacturer of nativity figure must have decided to turn the tile character into a nativity model and so the tradition of El Caganer was born.

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Another explanation is that El Caganer fertilizes the ground with his faeces and so is considered a symbol of prosperity and good luck for the coming year.

Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

Caganers of famous people. Image credit: Barcelonas.com

There is a legend that if a countryside man did not put a caganer in the nativity scene, he would have a very bad year collecting vegetables,” he said, claiming that the figurine is a symbol of fertility and good fortune.

Attempts To Ban The Caganer Failed

There were some attempts by the government to remove the Caganer from public nativities. In 2005 the local council of Barcelona decided to omit the Caganer from the city’s public nativity scene, it was said the presence of Caganer encouraged bad behavior in a city which has struggled with problems of public urination in the past.

Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

Modern day caganer | © Ajuntament Barcelona / Flickr

People didn’t like this decision at all and many locals complained about what they saw as an attack on their cultural heritage. In 2006 the caganer was reinstated to his usual place among the wise men, the donkeys and the angels. It seems that, despite his unverified origins and dubious behavior, the Caganer is more popular than ever and he is definitely here to stay.

Caganer: The Pooping Man Is Part Of The Catalonian Christmas Tradition And Nativity Scene

A ceramic figurine called a 'caganer' of Britain's Queen Elizabeth at the Santa Llucia Fair in Barcelona
Lluis GENE/AFP/Getty Images

In recent years, it’s possible to buy a Caganer made in the image of a public figure. Christmas markets sell the likes of politicians, soccer players, foreign presidents, rock stars and royalty.

Needless to say that people find this funny and figures like for example Queen Elizabeth II are popular, but if you don’t want the queen, you can always buy someone else.

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