I’m a bit of a Scrooge. I don’t really enjoy holiday music. I don’t like to go shopping, and when I start thinking about all the Christmas presents I need to buy, I start stressing. Since my parents are divorced, Christmas Eve always meant being schlepped between two households without really spending an adequate amount of time at either of them. Long story short: I have some major Christmas baggage.
However, my husband loves the holiday season. Our first few Christmases together were disappointing for him, as I never mustered the excitement to decorate the house or bake Christmas cookies. It all seemed like an obligation to me, one that I hoped to shirk.
This eventually led to a serious discussion about what the Christmas season meant to both of us, and what we could do to meet somewhere in the middle. We decided that our holidays needed a fresh start, and that meant creating new traditions just for us.
Maybe I’m a bit ornery; I picked a bizarre scatological Christmas custom from Spain.
Hailing from the Cataluña region, his formal name is Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log) but he likes to go by his party name, Caga Tió (Poop Log.) Catalan kids feed him treats in the days leading up to Christmas, fattening him up like a pig for market.
Parents often switch out smaller logs for larger ones so the little ones can watch him grow! The largest one is typically hollow, and by some Christmas miracle (wink, wink) it becomes packed with candies and sweets.
Then on Christmas Eve, the kids beat the log with a stick, and they sing a song asking the Tió to defecate delicious goodies, including an almond nougat with a fudge-like consistency called turrón.
There are many different versions of the Caga Tió song but here’s a quick snippet:
The Tió de Nadal, or Caga Tió makes me laugh like no other. So a few years ago, I begged my husband to help me make a few. We went to my in-laws’ home where we cut a tree limb into small chunks. Then mi esposo used a drill to make holes for little twig legs which I added using a hot glue gun.
With Google images as my guide, I painted faces on them and fashioned little mini Catalan barretina hats for them. Little did I realize I was painting on the face of South Park’s Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo. My mother-in-law was the one who noticed the resemblance! Nevertheless, they turned out pretty cute!
I gave the Caga Tiós to my friends and family for Christmas that year. Most of them thought I was a certified weirdo when I explained what it was, but everyone at least found a bit of humor in it. My in-laws have even added it to their annual holiday decor with a spot above their TV.
The best part for me is that it’s a Christmas tradition that is just ours as a couple. We have a small Caga Tió, and nope, sadly we do not swat it with a stick each year. But if we have kids one day, you can bet I will have a set of small, medium, and large Caga Tiós, and we will be beating the crap out of them at Christmas! 🙂
For now, just putting the Tió on display gives me a little Christmas cheer, which I had lacked for such a long time. It reminds me that the Ghosts of Christmases Past need not haunt me moving forward.
Here’s to living the Spanish life at home, however odd it might be! Merry Christmas!