In the Catalonian region of northeastern Spain, residents have what is probably the strangest Christmas tradition in the world, the Tió de Nadal (“Christmas log”) or Caga Tió. Tió de Nadal is a log about two feet long and six inches wide, with stick legs, a painted face, and a red hat, that parents bring out each year on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The connection, if any, between the feast day and the log is unclear because the tradition is far from immaculate. The children of the family are charged with feeding the log with nuts and dried fruit each night and covering him with a blanket to keep him warm. On Christmas, the adults plant more gifts, fruits, or candies under the blanket while the children are out of the room. When the children return, they beat the still-covered log with sticks while singing the traditional Tió de Nadal song. In English, these are the lyrics:
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
The adults periodically look under the blanket, eventually announcing the log has pooped and removing the blanket so the children can grab the treats. Tradition, if not sanitation, demands the log is then burned as part of the Christmas celebration.
Tom A. Jerman