With the holidays in full swing, I always think back to my whirlwind of a weekend in Barcelona three years ago at this time of year. Having only 48 hours to see all that the great things the Spanish city had to offer, I efficiently made my way to La Rambla, La Boqueria Market, the Gothic Quarter, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and a FC Barcelona soccer game.
While it was all fascinating, I found that visiting Barcelona in December was the perfect time! There were not as many tourists, the locals were in a cheerful mood for the holidays, and all of the Christmas decorations and markets were out, not to mention the mild winter weather (57 degrees).
My favorite part of the short trip, besides the delicious, fresh food and beautiful sites, was learning how the Catalans celebrate Christmas. I remember walking into a Christmas market in the Gothic Quarter and seeing so many logs of varying sizes with a smiling face and a little red hat. Then, on the stage where I would expect Santa Claus to be sitting, I instead saw a giant log with a face and blanket draped over it and about ten little children hitting it with a stick while singing a song. It turns out that one of the Catalan traditions is to feed and take care of Caga Tio (the log), and then on Christmas Eve, they hit it with sticks until presents come out. It was quite surprising but fun to see how meaningful and deep this tradition is in Barcelona.
Another interesting part of their Christmas traditions is the “Caganer.” He is an additional character in the Nativity story that we all know, and he can be seen just around the bushes of all the Nativity scenes displayed in the public squares. I had no previous knowledge of him, but apparently he is shown squatting with his pants around his ankles as he defecates to fertilize the earth and guarantee a good harvest for the next year.
The Caganer character has been transformed into a type of bobble-head phenomenon where Christmas booths sell figurines of celebrities, such as their famous soccer players, Bill Clinton, and Tiger Woods, practicing this pose.
Barcelona provided quite an interesting and unexpected Christmas experience which I fondly think back to every December.
By Cory Smith
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