The Christmas poop log

A eschatological yet charming Catalan Christmas tradition

On our traditions section, today we’ll talk about a Catalan log that, believe it or not, poops nougats, candies and toys at Christmas
The tió —often popularly called Tió de Nadal (Christmas log) or even Caga tió (“shitting log”, “poo log”), pronounced “Cagga-tee-oh”— is a wooden log with a smiley face painted onto one end.
On Christmas Day or, in some households, on Christmas Eve, to make it defecate, one beats the tió with a stick, while singing various songs. After hitting the tió softly with a stick during the song, it is hit harder on the last verse. Then somebody —most typically a kid— puts their hand under the blanket and takes a gift.

Tió song (there are many, here is just an example):
shit, log,
shit nougats,
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
shit, log!

Origin of the Poop Log Tió

But where does the Tió tradition come from? This pagan tradition, known as making the Christmas tió poo (or crap, or shit), has a rural origin and it also exists in some areas of Aragon and Occitania (in the south of France).

The Tió was a trunk that burned in the fireplace and then people spread its ashes because it was thought to have protective properties. Somehow it was a symbol for a change of cycle or, if you like, a change of year. The Tió was thought to represent the sleeping nature in winter, and to be a symbol for its abundance. That is why, when you hit it with a stick, what you are really doing is waking it up, that is to say, you wake up the nature that bountifully gives us its fruits — hence the gift “defecated” by the trunk.

This tradition extended in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then it expanded to the cities. After a few decades, the tradition fell into oblivion, but it strongly returned in the 1960’s. From then on, a face was painted onto one end of the log, a typical Catalan hat called barretina was added, and it was covered with a blanket to keep it cold.

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Catalan flags explained

An easy guide to Catalan Flags

Catalan people are friendly, open-minded and love democracy and fundamental rights. Catalans, diverse as they may be, feel very proud of their culture and history and have a long record of resisting repression and fighting against absolutism and fascism.

If you have been in Catalonia recently, you may have noticed that Catalans —in pro-democracy and pro-independence demonstrations, in their vehicles or in their balconies— proudly show and wave their flags…. But, come to think of it, they look quite different! Contrasting colours, disparate layouts and patterns… So why all these different banners and emblems? Let’s find out!

Understanding Catalan flags

The pro-independence movement is an inclusive, grass-roots, radically democratic movement that brings together people from all walks of life and different ideologies who agree upon two principles: Catalan people deserve the right to decide their own future and fundamental rights must be guaranteed. Such heterogeneity is reflected in the different flags (not all of them necessary pro-independence). So here are the main flags (and some not so well-known) that you may come across:

The senyera

This is the official flag of Catalonia and one of the oldest to still be flown in Europe. Not necessarily pro-independence, but it is the one you will see in Public buildings and representing official events. Some people call it the ‘autonomist’ flag meaning that it stands for stagnation. It is a vexillological symbol based on the coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, which consists of four red stripes on a golden background. Pronunciation: /səˈɲeɾə/ Senyera means Pennon, a flags carried during the Middle Ages.

The ‘blue’ Estelada

The Catalan word estelada (pronunciation: /əstəˈɫaðə/) can be translated into English as starlit flag, or starry flag. This is probably the most popular of all Catalan flags. It is actually an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters to express their wish for an independent and free Catalonia. The design of the Estelada, by Vicenç Albert Ballester, was modelled on the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags.

By the way, here is the first ‘estelada’, with a blue rhombus, the old version of the current blue design:

The ‘red’ Estelada

The main difference from the blue estelada is the colour of the emblem. But there is more to this flag than meets the eye. The ‘red’ estelada is a favourite among left-wing political pro-independence parties while the ‘blue’ one is a favourite among nationalist pro-independence parties.

The ‘black’ Estelada

This flag was used by 14th century Catalan soldiers Almogavers . It includes a white x-shaped cross as a symbol which represents Santa Eulàlia, one of Barcelona’s Saint patronesses who was crucified in this kind of x-shaped cross. This flag was used to commemorate the Tercentenary of the War of Succession (a European conflict of the early 18th century which deeply marked the history of Catalonia). The Black Flag, meaning no surrender as opposed to the white flag is becoming very popular. In the awful siege of Barcelona and Cardona, in the war of 1714, a black flag with the words “Viurem lliures o morirem”(literaly, We will live free or we will die”) flough on the walls.

The ‘green’ Estelada

Green version used by ecologists and animalists.

The anarchist Estelada

Anarchist pro-independence Catalan flag

The ‘white’ Estelada

Estelada used by the PSAN (1968-1977), Marxist Unification Movement (1977-1978), Catalan Workers Bloc (1978-1982) and Left Bloc for National Liberation (1979-1982).

LGTB Estelada

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender estelada.

Catalan Republican Flag

Catalan Republic flag to commemorate the referendum on 1 October — also known by the numeronym 1-O . This wonderfully designed flag is becoming very popular. It looks like a little work of art.

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Tocat del Bolet is a blog that aims to promote and share Catalan language and culture throughout its most typical expressions, in a fun and informative way.

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