Award-winning journalist Marta Pascual Juanola grew up in the Spanish region of Catalonia. It’s at Christmas time in particular that she can’t help but notice the differences between the two cultures she has grown to love.
I miss Christmas in my home country Catalonia.
I love everything about it: the long family meals that go on for hours, the special homemade food and addictive seasonal sweets, the presents, the cold weather, nativities, parades, the pooping log…
Hold on, wait a second. The pooping log isn’t a thing here, is it?
Every December, when us Catalans dust off our Christmas trees, we also bring our pooping logs out of the dark and place them in our dinning rooms.
They are big wooden logs with a giant grin on one end and two little leg stands.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, children cover the family log’s back with a blanket to keep it warm and feed it fruit and vegetables.
In exchange for the feed, the log, or Tió, ‘defecates’ small chocolates the children find under the blanket when they come back from school, which was the more exciting than getting to stay up late on a weekday.
On Christmas Eve, after weeks of living a warm well-fed life, the log is ready to blast the brown trumpet for the whole family.
After the compulsory Christmas Eve engorgement from dinner, a family member takes the excited children to another room to grab a couple of long sticks and sing Christmas carols – aka keep them entertained while parents hide the presents under the log’s blanket.
In the midst of old Christian carols about divine announcements and joy to the world, the parents yell ‘it stinks a lot in here, come check it out, it’s pooped a lot’.
The children rush out of the room filled with thrill and excitement and start hitting the log tirelessly singing the pooping log song, which goes like this:
‘Tió, Tió, poop nougat, the ones that are so good, if you don’t have more poop money, if you don’t have enough poop an egg.’
Although there’s several other versions of the song available that involve requests for wine, salty herrings and more cane strikes.
Once the hitting ritual is over, they lift the blanket and everybody unwraps the Christmas presents the log has just defecated. Definitely not for the weak-stomached, right?
The fun part is the tradition dates back to as far as pagan pre-Christian times, before the first century.
If you feel discombobulated wait for it, our dookie-related Christmas traditions don’t end here.
Like most European countries we also set up a nativity in our homes every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
But our Christmas displays have a rather scatological component to them.
In addition to the small tacky chalk figurines of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, we add a small man squatting taking a tonk that we hide in the display as some sort of cheeky joke.
Whenever friends and family visit each other, they have to check out the nativity and try to spot the pooping man.
The amazing thing is that there’s a whole industry behind the pooping men, which now feature celebrities and famous characters like Obama, Putin, Snoopy, John Snow and Trump well… taking a trump.
And there’s nothing more charming than walking around the Christmas markets checking out the latest designs in pooping men and smiley pooping logs.
So yes, I grew up hitting magical present-pooping logs with a stick and hiding little pooping men in nativities. And it was great.
In fact, there was nothing more gut-wrenching in my entire childhood as the day I was told by my parents I was too old to keep ‘hitting the log’.
It might sound bizarre, sickening and disturbing but to me it was, and it will always be, my favourite tradition.
Do you have any unique Christmas traditions? Be them cultural or exclusive to your family, we want to hear about it! Let us know below.