Our Little Caganer

If I said, about the topic of today’s blog, “I am absolutely not shitting you” it would be far too easy a joke…

Like Mexicans, Spaniards are wild about their nativity scenes. There is a whole Christmas market downtown dedicated to the selling of items for your nativity scene. There are plastic and ceramic Marys and Josephs and baby Jesuses in abundance. Vendors sell miniature camels, sheep, wise-wise men, angels, wooden stables (small, medium and large), metal palm trees, as well as moss to make your nativity scene more authentic. This particular market is like nirvana for a Christmas junkie like me. There is, however, an item for sale at the market that I would not have believed had I not been warned beforehand.

A colleague who teaches grade 5 told me about a unique Barcelona Christmas tradition involving a little figurine of a man caught, quite literally, with his pants down. He is called “el Caganer” which translates roughly to “the shitting guy”… stay with me. I am providing you with a definition from www.caganer.com… it is not a perfect translation but it is authentic:

The “Caganer”
Literally translated from Catalan, it means “the Great Shitter” or “the ferry Fertilizer”. Obliged figure in the Christmas cribs (nativity scene) of the eighteenth century, because people at that time used to say that with his fertile deposits the soil of the crib would be made rich and productive for the coming year, and that he would also bring good health and calm to the body and the soul that are necessary to do the crib with pride and happiness that Christmas brings at home. To put this jolly little man in the crib used to bring luck and happiness, not to put him used to bring disfortune.

Still with me? The Caganer is a small ceramic figure of a traditionally dressed man from Catalonia (the region of which Barcelona is the capital). This little chap is wearing a white shirt, a red sash and black trousers which are down around his ankles. He is smoking a pipe… in Spanish, this is called a “pipa.” When i bought my Caganer at the Christmas bazaar last Wednesday, the vendor asked me if I wanted one with a pipa. Oh yes… “Si!” we said… definitely with a pipa. The wee fellow is squatting over and has deposited, on the base of the figurine, a little mound of ceramic poop. Yes, our friend is taking a dump. My Caganer is taking his dump beside the wooden stable that i bought in Barcelona, to house my small tin nativity set brought from Mexico. Actually, the Caganer is sort of crouching over beside the palm tree. There’s no question… he is a bit conspicuous but this is mostly because he is not really dressed for the occasion of Christ’s birth. Nonetheless, he is a welcome addition, this tiny bearer of fertility and good fortune. This is our Caganer:

On the lighter side of the Caganer (is there any other side?) we saw some less traditional Caganers at the Christmas markets… Barça player Ronaldinho is a big hit, as is a tiny George Bush holding up a globe while he does his “business.” You can buy Caganers in the form of the Pope, Frank Rijkaard (coach of the Barça soccer team) and even Santa Claus. If you are interested in seeing these little shitters, you can check out the entire collection out at www.caganer.com. The company is based in Girona which is a smaller city outside Barcelona.

A couple of weeks ago, DP and I read a description of the Caganer on the blog of a Madrileno (person from Madrid) who goes by the name of Manuel Stimulation. I am NOT making this up! None of it! once again, I have made no effort to improve the English from this site. Warning: if you are interested in looking up Manuel’s blog for more of his opinions on life in Spain, please do so at your own risk!
“Is models of Catalan figure called Caganer; is tradition in that backward part of Spain to feature Caganer in nativity scenes. Is big disgrace that while baby Jesus is being born from his mother’s virgin womb that man should be taking shit in corner of stable. Who invite him?! Is he world’s first Protestant?”

Thanks, Manuel.


  1. So then, is this where the phrase "holy shit" came from???Thank you for making me laugh on an otherwise not fun day… and thank you (and Dee too!) for your warm thoughts. I'm in Virginia with family right now… the service is tomorrow but I'm here all week.By the way, since you're requesting suggestions… I think you should name him "Wiseman #2."

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