Weird History
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Why Do People In Spain Add Someone Openly Pooping To Their Nativity Scenes?

Updated December 4, 2020 102.6k views12 items

Christmas traditions around the world vary greatly but the Catalonian caganer statue is by far the oddest addition you can make to your nativity scene. What is a caganer? It's a Catalan pooping figurine that is added to Catalonian nativity scenes every holiday season. It's not a scary figurine and, like yule logs, elves, and mistletoe, has a long history and a huge cultural significance, particularly in Barcelona and other parts of Spain. When you look at it though, it certainly doesn't evoke the same gravitas as other European holiday occasions but the story behind it is one so bizarre that it is definitely still worth knowing.

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  • "Find The Caganer" Is A Game For Catalan Children

    Because the caganer isn't in the foreground of the nativity scene, it's a game to find him. Children in Catalonia play a game where they look for the caganer each morning... that must be a nice way to start the day.

  • Catalans May Add The Caganer To Their Nativity Scenes As A Symbol Of Fertility

    There are a lot of theories about the symbolism of the caganer. It's possible that Catalans place him in nativity scenes for fertility and good luck during the coming year. Poop is technically fertilizer so it's not a stretch to see the fertility connection. It's also the only offering a poor shepherd could make to the newly born Jesus. Over time, not placing a caganer was considered bad luck for the coming agricultural season.

    It's also possible that the statue is a reminder that God will appear when he is ready - when the urge strikes him - much like the need to defecate.

  • Photo: Roeland P. / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Or They Add Him As A Way To Boost The Divinity Of The Rest Of The Scene

    Other possible reasons for the presence of the caganer include its contrast to the holiness of the birth of Jesus or human weakness and dependence upon the human body. There are theories that it is placed in the nativity scene to demonstrate a pagan cleansing himself of his previous religious beliefs. An additional line of thought is that the caganer is supposed to bring a look of shock to the person who sees it, similar to that of the shepherd that heard the angel in the nativity story.

  • Photo: Caganercom / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    He Could Be A Way Of Representing Immigrants And Cultural Differences In The Nativity

    Several cultural perspectives on the caganer figure include ideas about his poor, worker persona and what it represents to Catalans. The caganer is a hard worker and he is using all of his resources - his own fertilizer - efficiently or he is demonstrating his opposition to traditional civilizing norms. Catalans are known for their work ethic and for their cultural uniqueness, both exemplified by the caganer.