Around this time every year, we revisit our favorite holiday traditions: decking the halls, mistletoe kissing, and beating a seasonal poop log until it craps out presents. Is this last one just us? No, actually! A Christmas sh*t log is a decidedly un-sh*tty Spanish yuletide tradition.
Meet Tió de Nadal
Of all the world’s great holiday customs, our very favorite resides in the Catalonia region of Spain. Enter Tió de Nadal, or “Christmas log”. Imagine a hollow wooden log with sticks for legs, a smiling face, topped with a floppy, crimson hat.
Each year on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Catalonian families whip out their traditional smiling logs. Then, each day in the weeks leading up until Christmas, the children in the family must feed the log with nuts, dried fruit and water. It’s kind of like an inverse Advent Calendar - instead of taking a daily bite of chocolate, well, you feed nougat to your nugget. The kiddos are also responsible for keeping Tió de Nadal cozy under a blanket.
On Christmas Eve, it’s time for the holiday poop log to step into the spotlight. Children gather ‘round the log, also known as Caga Tió (shit log), and gently beat him with sticks while they sing out:
“Caga tió, caga torró, avellanes i mató, si no cagues bé et daré un cop de bastó. Caga tió!”
In English it goes a little something like this: “Shit log, Shit nougats, Hazelnuts and mató cheese, If you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick, Shit log!”
After the traditional poop log beating and song singing, the kids check under Caga Tió’s blanket. There, they discover a pile of candies and presents pooped out by the log. After everyone collects these crappy-in-a-good-way treats, Caga Tió is tossed in the fireplace to warm the family. Our hearts are warmed just thinking about it!
The roots of this wooden custom are in rural pagan traditions that reach beyond Catalonia to Aragon and Occitania (Southern France). The Tió originated as a trunk that represented the sleeping nature in winter, as well as abundance. Hitting the log with a stick signified waking up the log to give its fruits, which is why today’s log defecates bounties.
The tradition was more common in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it even expanded into cities. It fell out of popularity for a few decades (we can’t think why), but returned with flair in the 1960s. This is when the smiley face and floppy hat were added -- the ‘60s were big for hats!
Beyond The Log
Amazingly, the Christmas Poop Log is not Spain’s only poop-based Christmas tradition. We’re truly blessed!
While Nativity scenes are standard in many Christmas celebrations worldwide, the Catalonian Nativities feature one character you won’t find elsewhere: El Caganer. El Caganer is a lone man pooping in the hay of Christ’s manger scene. Often tucked away in a corner of the Nativity, El Caganer is an arse-out celebration of… well, we actually aren’t sure!
Some say El Caganer represents the equality of all people (everyone poops!), and some say he symbolizes the idea that God will manifest on His own time. Others say the tradition is founded in comic relief. It’s tough to know what El Caganer symbolizes, but it’s safe to say that no nativity is complete without his full moon.
With Caga Tió, it’s like Spain squinted at our yule logs and said, “we’re ready to mix this up.” And to be honest? They nailed it.
Tió de Nadal is a Spanish tradition that deserves more play state-side, just like siestas, paella and bidets, which are found in most private Spanish homes. If you’re ready to introduce a little Spanish flair in your Yuletide traditions, you can try your very own Caga Tió or a TUSHY bidet attachment.