Sunday, September 11, 2016

Caga Tió moves into the Treehouse


           Last weekend's guests at Fern Forest brought us the tradition of the Catalon Christmas pooping log.
That’s right—a log that poops—presents.
Ari, from Catalonia, and Juan, from Colombia, brought their daughters Maia and Mar for a second visit to the Treehouse, this time with åvia (grandmother) Anna visiting from Barcelona. On one of their three nights with us, they told us that Santa doesn’t bring children gifts in Catalonia. They get gifts from Caga Tió, the log with a smiling face and a red stocking cap.
             Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, children place a bit of food in front of Tió every night and cover him with a blanket to keep him warm. If they take good care of the log, it will poop gifts for them. The tradition goes that on Christmas Day the children leave the room to practice their Tió de Nadal songs and pray for presents.
            Children in Catalonia, it seems, are permitted free use of the Catalon word “caga,” meaning “shit.” Here’s the English translation of the pooping log song: “Shit, log—shit nougats, hazelnuts and cheese. If you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick. Shit, log!”
While they’re singing and praying, parents surreptitiously place gifts under the blanket. When youngsters are called back into the room, they sing their songs while beating the tió with sticks to make him poop their gifts. The presents are usually small—candies, nuts, and little toys. (Larger gifts are brought by the Three Wise Men—which makes me wonder what offense Santa perpetrated to be exiled from Catalonia.)
When the log has pooped out all his gifts, he poops a hunk of coal (according to åvia Anna) or a square of toilet paper with Nutella smeared on it (says Ari), indicating that the log has nothing left in him except—ahem—poop, and the fun is over.
H was so taken with the pooping log story that the next day he took Maia and Mar to his workshop and fashioned his own caga tió topped with a red ski hat. Mar offered the log a few leafs of lettuce from the garden, but Ari declared that the tió was not expected to poop until Christmas, which I was relieved to hear.
Even though the family now lives just outside New York City, they still celebrate the pooping log tradition. When we said farewell, we offered them H’s caga tió as our parting gift.
“No thanks,” Juan said, smiling. “We have our own pooping log.”
Now, it appears, so does Fern Forest.