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):
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
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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