12 January 2007

Part II of Catalan Christmas lesson

Another excerpt from my little Christmas book. It's about a beloved figure, called The Pooper, el Caganer. (There's no denying the scatalogical bent of Catalan culture...)

The caganer is the most interesting feature of any Catalan nativity scene, which is called the pessebre, and is often exceedingly elaborate, encompassing not only the stable and its expected denisens, but also the whole of an imagined Bethlehem. Yet, somewhere hidden behind a bush or in a corner, is a little figurine of one of the inhabitants of the town, who is sneaking a moment to take a dump. Caganer means “shitter,” and he is almost always depicted bent over, complete with a little pile of poop and a bare bottom, as well as a traditional Catalan peasant costume.

Catalan children are always eager to be the one to hide the caganer in the nativity scene, and even more eager to hunt him out when visiting someone else’s pessebre. Little baby Jesus, as everywhere, is the star of the show, but behind the scenes, the caganer invites the viewer to keep looking until that little farmer figure is found.

The idea is that, even at the holiest of moments, humans are humans, and go about their business, joining the cycle of fertilization and harvest. Joan Amades, in El Pessebre, says that the inclusion of the caganer in the creche scene was was “believed to bring a rich and successful harvest the following year, and health and happiness to you and your loved ones.”

PS: These days, they make caganers out of every kind of personality you can imagine. Political leaders are a favorite, followed by soccer players. Just do a google image search of "caganer" and you'll se what I mean.

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