Caganer

A Caganer (Catalan pronunciation: [kəɣəˈne]) is a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, Valencia, and Northern Catalonia (in southern France). It is most popular and widespread in these areas, but can also be found in other areas of Spain (Murcia), Portugal, and southern Italy (Naples).

The name "El Caganer" literally means "the crapper" or "the shitter". Traditionally, the figurine is depicted as a peasant, wearing the traditional Catalan red cap (the barretina) and with his trousers down, showing a bare backside, and defecating.

Origins

The exact origin of the Caganer is unknown, but the tradition has existed since at least the 18th century.[1] According to the society Amics del Caganer (Friends of the Caganer), it is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th or early 18th century, during the Baroque period.[2][3] An Iberian votive deposit was found near Tornabous in the Urgell depicting a holy Iberian warrior defecating on his falcata. This led to a brief altercation between the Institut d'Estudis Catalans and the Departament d'Arqueologia in the Conselleria de Cultura of the Generalitat de Catalunya as to whether the find can be regarded as a proto-caganer (which would place the origin of this tradition far earlier than previously thought) or just a representation of a pre-combat ritual.

Tradition

In Catalonia, as well as in the rest of Spain and in most of Italy and Southern France, traditional Christmas decorations often consist of a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to the Nativity scenes of the English-speaking world but encompassing the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. This pessebre is often a reproduction of a pastoral scene—a traditional Catalan masia (farmhouse) as the central setting with the child in a manger, and outlying scenes including a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds herding their sheep or walking towards the manger with gifts, the Three Wise Men approaching on camel back, a scene with the angel and shepherds, the star pointing the way, etc. Commonly materials such as moss will be used to represent grass, with cork used to represent mountains or cliffs. Another variant is to make the setting oriental, with the Wise Men arriving by camel and the figures dressed accordingly.

The caganer is a particular and highly popular feature of modern Catalan nativity scenes. It is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th or early 18th century, during the Baroque period.[4] Eminent folklorist Joan Amades called it an essential piece and the most popular figure of the nativity scene. It can also be found in other parts of southwestern Europe, including Murcia, the region just south of the Valencia in Spain (where they are called cagones), Naples (cacone or pastore che caca) and Portugal (cagões).[5] There is a sculpture of a person defecating hidden inside the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, Province of Salamanca, though this is not part of a nativity scene.[6] Accompanying Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and company, the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. A tradition in Catalonia is to have children find the hidden figure.

Explanations

Possible reasons[7] for placing a figure representing a person in the act of emptying his bowels in a scene which is widely considered holy include:

  • The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. According to the ethnographer Joan Amades, it was a "customary figure in nativity scenes [pessebres] in the 19th century, because people believed that this deposit [symbolically] fertilized the ground of the nativity scenes, which became fertile and ensured the nativity scene for the following year, and with it, the health of body and peace of mind required to make the nativity scene, with the joy and happiness brought by Christmas near the hearth. Placing this figurine in the nativity scene brought good luck and joy and not doing so brought adversity."[4]
  • Many modern caganers represent celebrities and authority figures. By representing them with their pants down, the caganer serves as a leveling device to bring the mighty down.[8]
  • As to the charge of blasphemy, as Catalan anthropologist Miguel Delgado has pointed out, the grotesque, rather than a negation of the divine may actually signify an intensification of the sacred, for what could be more grotesque than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a bloody public torture and execution as the defining moment in the story of Christianity?[9]
  • In his essay Les virtuts cìviques del caganer ("The Civic Virtues of the Defecator"), American anthropologist Brad Erickson argues that Catalans use the caganer to process and respond to contemporary social issues such as immigration and the imposition of public civility regulations.[10]

Further opinions:[11]

  • "The caganer was the most mischievous and out-of-place character of the pessebre's [otherwise] idyllic landscape; he was the "Other", with everything that entails, and as the "Other", was accepted, in a liberal vein, as long as he did not aim to occupy the foreground. The caganer represented the spoilsport that we all have inside of us, and that's why it is not surprising that it was the most beloved figure among the children and, above all, the adolescents, who were already beginning to feel rather like outsiders at the family celebration." Agustí Pons
  • "The caganer is a hidden figure and yet is always sought out like the lost link between transcendence and contingency. Without the caganer, there would be no nativity scene but rather a liturgy, and there would be no real country but just the false landscape of a model." Joan Barril
  • "The caganer seems to provide a counterpoint to so much ornamental hullabaloo, so much emotive treacle, so much contrived beauty." Josep Murgades
  • "The caganer is, like so many other things that have undergone the filtering of a great many generations, a cult object; with the playful, aesthetic and superficial devotion that we feel towards all the silly things that fascinate us deep down." Jordi Soler

Local reactions

The practice is tolerated by the Catholic church within the areas where the Caganer is popular. Although the tradition generally has popular support, opinion is divided as to whether it is wholly appropriate and not all nativity scenes in Catalonia include caganers.

Similar traditions

The Caganer is not the only defecating character in the Catalan Christmas tradition—another is the Tió de Nadal, which also makes extensive use of the image of fecal matter (it is a log, i.e. tió which, having been "fed" for several weeks, is told to defecate on Christmas Eve and "magically" produces candy for children, a candy that has supposedly come from its bowels). Other mentions of feces and defecation are common in Catalan folklore: indeed, a popular Catalan saying for use before a meal is menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort! ("Eat well, shit heartily, and don't be afraid of death!"). In his book Barcelona, architecture critic and locale historian Robert Hughes gives a good introduction to this earthy tradition.

The Caganer can also be found in other European cultures, either as an import or a minor local tradition:

  • In France: Père la Colique ("Father Cholic").[12] In France this figure seems to date from the 1930s or 40s.[13]
  • In Murcia, the region just south of the Valencian Community in Spain (where they are called cagones)[14]
  • The Naples area, where it is known as cacone or pastore che caca[14]
  • Portugal, where they are known as cagões[3][14][15]

Possible translations of the caganer concept into other languages include:

  • In the Dutch/Flemish: Kakkers / Schijterkes ("Pooper"/"Little Pooper")
  • In German: Choleramännchen or Hinterlader ("Little Cholera Man" or "Breech-loader")

Traditional vs. modern portrayals

Caganers
Modern caricature caganers for sale

The traditional caganer is portrayed as a Catalan peasant man (i.e. a farmer or shepherd) wearing a typical hat called a barretina — a red stocking hat with a black band. At least since the late 1970s, the figure of a traditional Catalan peasant woman was also added, wearing traditional garb including the long black hairnet.

The Catalans have modified this tradition a good deal since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional caganer design, one can easily find other characters assuming the Caganer position, such as nuns, devils, Santa Claus, celebrities, athletes, historical figures, politicians, Spanish royalty, British royalty,[1] and other famous people past and present. Just days after his election as US president in 2008, a "pooper" of Barack Obama was made available.[16]

At markets and exhibits

Caganers are easiest to find before Christmas in holiday markets, like the one in front of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, which has many tables of Caganers. Every year new figures are created, and some people collect them. Caganers are the focal point of at least one association (Els Amics del Caganer, i.e. Friends of the Caganer), which puts out a regular bulletin ("El Caganòfil"), and have even been featured in art exhibits.

In recent years a urinating statue, or Pixaner, has also appeared, but it has not taken root or gained any serious popularity.

Controversy surrounding Barcelona's civility ordinance

Pessebre a la plaça de Sant Jaume - caganer
The caganer in the 2011 official nativity scene in Barcelona's Plaça de Sant Jaume

In 2005, the Barcelona city council provoked a public outcry by commissioning a nativity scene which did not include a caganer. The local government was reported to have countered these criticisms by claiming that the Caganer was not included because a civility ordinance[17] had made public defecation and public urination illegal, meaning that the caganer was now setting a bad example.[18][19] Many saw this as an attack on Catalan traditions. One writer of a letter to the editor asserted, "A nativity scene without a caganer is not a nativity scene."[20] A second writer offered a win-win solution. He suggested including the caganer but also placing a figure of a police officer with a pen and clipboard next to him, writing a ticket for the infraction. The writer said this would achieve three objectives: respect tradition, comply with the ordinance and educate the public about how it is being reinforced, and finally, demonstrate how important it is to respect the law.[21] Finally, the head of Parks and Gardens publicly denied prohibiting the caganer in the first place, saying that it was the artistic decision of the artist commissioned by the city to design and install the pessebre.[22] Following a campaign against the caganer's absence called Salvem el caganer (Save the caganer), and widespread media criticism, the 2006 nativity restored the caganer, who appeared on the northern side of the nativity near a dry riverbed.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Rainsford, Sarah (23 December 2010). "A traditional Nativity scene, Catalan-style". BBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  2. ^ Amics del Caganer (Friends of the Caganer). Consulted 23 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Garske, M. (December 23, 2010). "Weird Christmas Custom: Spot the Pooping Peasant". AOL News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012.
  4. ^ a b El Caganer, by Jordi Arruga and Josep Mañà. (Barcelona: Alta Fulla, 1992), reproduced on the website Amics del Caganer (Friends of the Caganer). Consulted 23 December 2010.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-04-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Amics del Caganer
  6. ^ Jordi Bilbeny, Les arrels precristianes del pessebre de Nadal (The Pre-Christian Roots of the Nativity Scene) (article in Catalan). Consulted 23 December 2010.
  7. ^ "Caganer.com". Caganer.
  8. ^ Erickson, Brad. Les virtuts cíviques del caganer. Caramella: Revista de música i cultura popular No. 25, pp. 47-50 (2011).
  9. ^ Delgado Ruiz, Manuel. 2001. Luces iconoclastas: Anticlericalism, espacio, y ritual en la España contemporánia, Ariel Antropología. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel.
  10. ^ Erickson, Brad. Les virtuts cìviques del caganer. Caramella: Revista de música i cultura popular. No. 25, pp. 47-50 (2011).
  11. ^ The following opinions are translated from El Caganer, by Jordi Arruga and Josep Mañà. (Barcelona: Alta Fulla, 1992), reproduced on the website Amics del Caganer (Friends of the Caganer). Consulted 23 December 2010.
  12. ^ Reference to this figure on the website: Centre de recherches Hubert de Phalèse - Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris III (in French). Accessed on 23 December 2010.
  13. ^ Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Léxicales
  14. ^ a b c Arruga, J.; Mañá, J. (1992). El Caganer. Alta Fulla.
  15. ^ Whittaker, F. (October 11, 2012). "Christmas Traditions Around the World". MSN.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2008-11-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ Suñé, Ramon. 2006a. La nueva ordenanza del civismo impera desde hoy en Barcelona. La Vanguadia, January 25.
  18. ^ Caganer, Amics del. 2005. Nova polèmica amb la figura del Caganer 2005 [cited. Available from http://www.amicsdelcaganer.org/index1.htm.
  19. ^ Rose, Jeremy (2005-12-25). "Barcelona's Christmas Crapper Canned". Scoop.
  20. ^ Castells, E. 2005. La ausencia de 'caganer' en el pesebre de Sant Jaume enfrenta a los políticos. La Vanguardia de Barcelona, 30/11/2005.
  21. ^ Giménez, Joaquín. 2005. Multa al 'caganer'. La Vanguardia de Barcelona, 29/11/2005.
  22. ^ Castells, E. 2005. La ausencia de 'caganer' en el pesebre de Sant Jaume enfrenta a los políticos. La Vanguardia de Barcelona, 30/11/2005.

External links

Barretina

A barretina (Catalan pronunciation: [bərəˈtinə]; plural: barretines, diminutive of barret "cap") is a traditional hat that was frequently worn by men in parts of the Christian cultures of the Mediterranean sea such as Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, Provence, Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia, part of Naples, part of the Balkans and parts of Portugal.

In Catalonia and Eivissa, men wore barretinas until the 19th century, especially in rural areas. It took the form of a bag, made of wool, usually red, or sometimes purple.

Today, the barretina is no longer commonly worn in everyday life, but is still used in traditional dances, or as a symbol of Catalan identity. Painter Salvador Dalí sometimes wore the barretina in the 20th century. Some Catalan folkloric characters also wear a barretina, as: the Catalan Christmas figurine caganer, the Christmas log or tió, as well as the fictional characters Patufet, first drawn on the En Patufet magazine by Antoni Muntanyola, and "The Catalan" drawn by Gaietà Cornet i Palau.

Christmas club

The Christmas club is a savings program that was first offered by various banks and credit unions in the United States beginning in the first half of the 20th century, and including the Great Depression. The concept is that bank customers deposit a set amount of money each week into a special savings account, and receive the money back at the end of the year for Christmas shopping.

Christmas cookie

Christmas cookies or Christmas biscuits are traditionally sugar cookies or biscuits (though other flavours may be used based on family traditions and individual preferences) cut into various shapes related to Christmas.

Christmas in Hawaii

Christmas in Hawaii is a major annual celebration, as in most of the Western world.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce or cranberry jam is a sauce or relish made out of cranberries, commonly served as a condiment with Thanksgiving dinner in North America and Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom and Canada. There are differences in flavor depending on the geography of where the sauce is made: in Europe it is generally slightly sour-tasting, while in North America it is typically more heavily sweetened.

Defecation

Defecation is the final act of digestion, by which organisms eliminate solid, semisolid, or liquid waste material from the digestive tract via the anus.

Humans expel feces with a frequency varying from a few times daily to a few times weekly. Waves of muscular contraction (known as peristalsis) in the walls of the colon move fecal matter through the digestive tract towards the rectum. Undigested food may also be expelled this way, in a process called egestion.

Open defecation, the practice of defecating outside without using a toilet of any kind, is still widespread in some developing countries, for example in India.

Julebord

Julebord (Norwegian; Swedish julbord; Danish julefrokost) is a Scandinavian feast or banquet in the days before Christmas in December, and partly in November, where there is served traditional Christmas food and alcoholic beverages, often in the form of a buffet. The julebord is organized by employers or organizations and others for the employees or members. Originally, the julebord belonged to Christmas itself, i.e. the period from Christmas Day and onwards. Many julebords are characterized by large amounts of food and drink, both traditional and new, hot and cold dishes. There is often lively partying and the party can be an important social meeting place for colleagues. Julebords are a popular tradition that creates high season for the restaurant industry, the taxi industry and ferry companies Fjord Line, Stena Line, DFDS, Hurtigruten and Color Line during these months. Norwegian revelers spends billions of Kroner on food and beverages alone during this period.

Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht (German pronunciation: [ˌknɛçtˈʁuː.pʁɛçt] (listen); English: Farmhand Rupert or Servant Rupert) is a companion of Saint Nicholas as described in the folklore of Germany. He first appears in written sources in the 17th century, as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession.

Melomakarono

The melomakarono (Greek: μελομακάρονο plural: μελομακάρονα, melomakarona) is an egg-shaped Greek dessert made mainly from flour, olive oil, and honey.

Along with the kourabies it is a traditional dessert prepared primarily during the Christmas holiday season.

Typical ingredients of the melomakarono are flour or semolina, sugar, orange zest and/or fresh juice, cognac (or similar beverage), cinnamon and olive oil. During rolling they are often filled with ground walnuts. Immediately after baking, they are immersed for a few seconds in cold syrup made of honey and sugar dissolved in water. Finally, they are decorated with ground, as well as bigger pieces of walnut. Dark chocolate-covered melomakarona are also a more recent variation of the traditional recipe.

Mikulás

Mikulás (or Szent Miklós) is the Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas, and a similar figure to Santa Claus. In many cities, Mikulás is getting more conflated with Santa Claus. Still, it is believed that Mikulás arrives to celebrate his day, December 6, and leaves before Christmas. This tradition is also well known in Romania (Moș Nicolae), Slovenia (Miklavž), the Czech Republic, Slovakia (both Mikuláš), Croatia (Sv. Nikola) and Poland (Mikołaj).

Nativity of Jesus in later culture

The birth of Jesus has been depicted since early Christianity, and continues to be interpreted in modern artistic forms. Some of the artforms that have described His Nativity include drama (including television and films) and music (including opera).

Nativity scene

In the Christian tradition, a nativity scene (also known as a manger scene, crib, crèche (or , or in Italian presepio or presepe) is the special exhibition, particularly during the Christmas season, of art objects representing the birth of Jesus. While the term "nativity scene" may be used of any representation of the very common subject of the Nativity of Jesus in art, it has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or reenactments called "living nativity scenes" (tableau vivant) in which real humans and animals participate. Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.

Other characters from the nativity story, such as shepherds, sheep, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals, as described in the Gospel of Luke. A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, and the Magi and their camels, described in the Gospel of Matthew, are also included. Several cultures add other characters and objects that may or may not be Biblical.

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223 in order to cultivate the worship of Christ. He himself had recently been inspired by his visit to the Holy Land, where he'd been shown Jesus's traditional birthplace. The scene's popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.

Distinctive nativity scenes and traditions have been created around the world, and are displayed during the Christmas season in churches, homes, shopping malls, and other venues, and occasionally on public lands and in public buildings. Nativity scenes have not escaped controversy, and in the United States of America their inclusion on public lands or in public buildings has provoked court challenges.

Nochebuena

Nochebuena is a Spanish word referring to the night of Christmas Eve and celebrated on December 24 every year.

Northern Catalan

Northern Catalan (Catalan: català septentrional, pronounced [kətəˈla səptəntɾiuˈnal], also known as rossellonès) is a Catalan dialect mostly spoken in Northern Catalonia, but also extending in the northeast part of Southern Catalonia in a transition zone with Central Catalan.

Like other Eastern Catalan dialects, unstressed /a/ and /e/ are realized as schwa [ə], and [u] substitutes unstressed /o/. It is has only five stressed vowel, the smallest number of any Catalan dialect: /i e a o u/.

There are some instances of historic stressed /o/ that has changed to /u/: canigó > canigú.

As in Balearic dialect, final a is not pronounced in words ending with ia if the stress is before the penultimate syllable.

Some subdialects keep the singular masculine definite article lo, as in North-Western Catalan and many varieties of Occitan.

Northern Catalan has a large body of words imported from French and Occitan. It also features some grammatical forms and structures that are typical of Occitan, such as the use of a lone post-verbal pas, rather than a lone preverbal no to express basic negation (Northern Catalan canti pas vs. Central Catalan no canto, 'I don't sing' or 'I'm not singing'); pas is also used in some other Catalan dialects for emphasis but always with no before the verb (Central Catalan no canto pas, 'I do not sing' or 'I am not singing').

Nutcracker doll

Nutcracker dolls, also known as Christmas nutcrackers, are decorative nutcracker figurines most commonly made to resemble a toy soldier. In German tradition, the dolls are symbols of good luck, frightening away malevolent spirits.

While nearly all nutcrackers from before the first half of the 20th century are functional, a significant proportion of modern nutcrackers are primarily decorative, and not able to crack nuts. Nutcrackers are also a part of German folklore, serving as protectors of a house.

Small Business Saturday

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Spanbaum

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Tió de Nadal

The Tió de Nadal (Catalan pronunciation: [tiˈo ðə nəˈðal]; meaning in English "Christmas Log"), also known simply as Tió or Soca ("Trunk" or "Log", a big piece of cut wood) or Tronca ("Log"), is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia and some regions of Aragon. A similar tradition exists in other places, such as the Cachafuòc or Soc de Nadal in Occitania. In Aragon it is also called Tizón de Nadal or Toza.

Traditions of Catalonia

There are quite a number of festivals and traditions in Catalonia (Spain). While most are of ancient origin, certain traditions are of relatively recent introduction. There are also some that are common to the whole Catalan society, but others are relevant only to a particular location. Generally, locals welcome outsiders to share with them in their celebration.

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