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Christmas oddities…

… and how to adopt a new one

So this is Christmas… and in many parts of the world, the Christmas spirit is taking over every corner of the city and melting hearts. We have been warming up with evoking carols, bright lights, hot drinks, seasonal dishes, pre-Christmas dinners (in plural), biscuit baking, trees set up, visited Christmas markets,  re-watched festive-mood-setting movies as Love Actually, wrapped in a blanket, because baby it’s cold outside, re-read classics like a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and overly spent money on things… because it’s Christmas time

We are at the surroundings of the holiday season and those who do celebrate Christmas, are getting mentally and physically ready to overdo: overly joy and rejoice, eat, and drink from the 24th of December in the evening until the 26th of December, when we will give ourselves (that includes stomach and liver) a break and prepare to welcome the New Year. Make brand-new-recycled resolutions, such as: “next Christmas I will eat half of what I’ve eaten, and the kids will get one third of the presents they got”.

In a globalized world, Christmas and New Year celebrations, do look quite alike everywhere, but, each country has its own eccentricities combined with ancient rituals, blended with third culture traditions, so much in fashion to embrace these days.

I have came across different odd ones, like the fireworks in the Netherlands on New Years eve, the diving in frozen water on the first day of the new year,  a snowman in all-year-round-sunny Florida,… the list is long, but the one that sits on the top of my eccentric Christmas traditions list, is no other than the one from my nation, Catalonia, the so called Fer cagar el El tió de Nadal (make the Christmas Log shit, translated literally). This  tradition dates back to centuries ago and it is still wildly represented amongst the 7 milion inhabitants, despite of the influence of other traditions.
Kids and grownups all do it. At school, amongst friends, at work and at home, it is not rare to make the log shit more than once during the holidays. But never after New Year. As most ancient traditions, El Tió comes with its own songs. The repertoire is varied, but all lyrics are about the same.
Back in the days, music was the safest way to make traditions pass from generation to generation, and this one is no exception.

Fer cagar el tió goes as follows

On the 8th of December, each household, either goes to find its own Tió in the forest, or, in some lucky homes, the Tió arrives at their doorstep. From that moment on and until the 24th of December in the evening, or the 25th of December before the Christmas feast, it is the responsibility of the family to feed the log daily.
On the chosen day, right before making the Tió take action (i.e. shit), all the participants shall go to the piano room and rehearse Christmas carols or the Tió tune* (find a transcription and translation at the bottom of the post). As you hear the log fart, you can quickly go to where it is and start to gently beat it with the stick, whilst singing the song. Once the song is over, sticks on the floor, and you can proceed to uncover the log and unveil what it has pooped for you.  Traditionally you would get  turró (nougat), chocolate in various shapes, clothes to be worn on Christmas day, and other goods to be eaten during the holly days. Nowadays, besides this, you can also find toys, but the big presents are usually reserved by the Three Wise Men on the 6th of January.

The Vinyes Martínez family, went to find theirs in the mountain (photo credits to A.Vinyes)

If you, like american actress Kate McKinnon and a whole nation, would like to embrace this Catalan tradition as she explained on Seth Meyers’ NBC late show recently , read on.

A step-by-step to fer cagar el Tió it like a pro

You need:

  • a log
  • a blanket (preferably in a checkered pattern)
  • a stick (or as many as people are going to participate at a time)
  • white, black and red paint and brush (to give the log a face if desired)
  • round piece of wood and glue for the nose (to finish off the face of the log if desired)

How to proceed once you have the log:

  • If desired, give it a face
  • Place it in the most prominent room of the house, if you have a fire place, near it, to keep it warm.
  • Wrap it with the blanket, face uncovered
  • Feed it mandarines, oranges, bananas or bread and water, daily until the very day of the big pooped.
  • Learn the “el Tió” song and be sure you, and the rest of the participants, nail it by the day you will need it.
  • Buy goods to be placed under the blanket

On the day itself:

  • Go to the piano room with all the people that will make the log shit
  • Have an adult secretly placing the goods under the blanket
  • As soon as you hear the log fart, it’s the unequivocal sign that it’s ready. Go to the El Tió room, sing and hit it until the song is over.
  • Uncover the Tió and enjoy the pooped goods.

baby Joana hugs her log with gratitude (photo credits N.Feliu)

Should you like to embrace this tradition but are left with some doubts, do not hesitate to write me for further details. I can even give you a show off round.

Happy Christmas and caga Tió! 

*Translation of the Tió tune:

“Tió, tió, tió,
caga neules, caga neules,
Tió, tió, tió,
caga neules i torró.
No caguis arengades que són salades,
caga torronos, que són més bons!
Caga tió! 
Log, log, log,
shit neules (rolled wafers), shit neules
Log, log, log,
shit neules and torró (nougat),
Do not shit herrings as they are too salty,
do shit nougat, it’s way nicer!
Shit log!

featured picture    CC BY-SA 3.0

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