In Spain Caganer and Caga tìo are symbols of Xmas
When Xmas is approaching, it is a Christian tradition to decorate Xmas trees and putting up a Nativity scene (especially in Italy and in some country in Europe). Especially the latter, that is constantly embellished by new figurines and settings, so much to look like pieces of art. It’s what usually happens in Naples (Italy), where the attention to details for the Nativity scene is maximal. Not only for settings but especially for the figurines that over time have become a yearly event where celebrities, politicians, football players, etc… are the protagonists. All of them are often depicted in particular behaviors suggesting what they are famous for, but usually, they enter into the circle of caganer because during the year they were involved in specific public affairs.
In Spain, especially in Catalonia, two are the most characteristic Xmas figurines: the caganer and caga tìo. Both are characters, famous for taking a poop.
The caganer is traditionally depicted as a farmer when he’s pooping. The origin of that must be between the 17th and 18th century. It was used superstitiously inside a Nativity as a lucky charm because without its presence, people believed it brings bad luck. Over the years, just like in the Neapolitan Nativity, figurines begun to be depicted as celebrities while they are pooping. This is considered funny because characters sometimes represent statesmen or classy celebrities in a hilarious moment.
The act of pooping doesn’t have a clear explanation, but has different interpretations; one of them is surely the symbol of the fertility of the land, meaning prosperity for a farmer. Another explanation might be social equality because taking a poop is something puts us all at the same level. Even though you may consider these figurines out of place for a religious holiday, they have been always considered a funny aspect of Xmas for Catalans.
However, the caganer is not the only Christmas item that has to do with poop, they also have the caga tìo: a log carved into a grossly human shape that is covered by a blanket to hide its ‘poop’ and it’s put in the middle of the room on Xmas Eve. In the aftermath, children are asked to hit the trunk with a stick as they sing a rhyme ‘to get the caga tìo to poop candy’. Then, the blanket is removed to show candy ‘produced’ by the caga tìo and properly hidden by their parents. Originally, the caga tìo was a big tree trunk that was burnt to heat and light up houses during the Xmas holidays. Then, over the years it has turned into a cuter character that wears a barretina (a typical cap of Catalan countries).