The Caganer, in Catalan, is literally "the one who poos".
His squatting figure(now sometimes in the form of a
famous or infamous personage)is placed alongside Jesus,
Mary and Joseph in the nativity scene. Traditionally
the caganer is hidden behind a tree,as is appropriate
for one doing his business in the presence of divinity.
So why represent the crassest of bodily functions on the
holiest of Christian holidays, you might ask. Is it sheer
irreverence? Catalonia is know to obsess about this and
keeping the local language of catalan alive. This quirky
little holiday tradition also helps the bottom line of
many market vendors who sell a hundred different
varieties and style of the Cagner. Some sport a Santa hat
some are dressed as gypsies,others look professional in
mini Armani suits.
Why did this odd tradition become so beloved? The explanation
can be found in Catalunya's agrarian roots:specifically, the caganer
symbolizes the return to the earth of everything that comes from
the earth; his impressive heap is a symbol of fertility.
This I was told by the vendor where I shopped daily while I lived
in the Barceloneta neighborhood of Barcelona.
Now how's that for a twist on holiday tradition?
Never gonna look at that nativity scene in the same way.