In Catalonia, the historic northeast territory of Spain, an unusual Christmas tradition is followed. During the festive season the devoutly Catholic nation is adorned with large figurine models of the city of Bethlehem alongside the typical nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Shepherds.
But, tucked away in a corner of the model is always a little figurine of a defecating Catalan peasant.
The ‘pooping figurine’ is known as the caganer (pronounced ca-ya-ner), directly translating to pooper.
Before you roll your eyes, it’s worth noting that in Catalanian culture, the “caganer” is a symbol that assures good luck in the new year. It represents a way of fertilizing the ground, naturally – and thus promising a good harvest during the forthcoming year. Hence, it is a good omen.
Folklore says that the figurine should even be moved around the nativity scene so that no corner is left unfertilized. The practice is even tolerated by the local Catholic church.
Others believe that the Caganer represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone defecates.
The exact origin of the Caganer is not known, but the tradition hdates back to the 17th century.
Originally, the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing red stocking hat with a black band, but modern Caganers are often caricatures of famous people.
Everyone from Michael Jackson to Elvis and John Lennon, to US president Barack Obama and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, as well as sportsmen from Real Madrid soccer players to race car drivers have been immortalised as caganer figurines.
The Catalans insist the crouching poopers are an essential part of their nativity scene, so much so that even in the Spanish capital Barcelona, when local councils have attempted to ban caganers in the past, intense public outcries have always brought back the traditional squatter statue.
Take a look at some of our favourite caganers, can you guess which famous personalities they represent?