Catalan Christmas abroad

How do Catalans abroad celebrate Christmas? The CNA has met four Catalan and foreign families to discover how they spend Christmas

CNA / Laura Pous

December 31, 2010 03:26 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- How do Catalans married to foreigners celebrate Christmas? Catalans are known throughout the world for their deeply rooted yet strange Christmas traditions. Amongst  these is the 'caga tió' literally "the poop log". At Christmas, children usually sing to the log, asking it to “poop out presents” while beating it with a stick. The ‘caga tió’ then reveals an array of presents, made of candies and snacks, for the whole family to enjoy. The Catalan News Agency has met four Catalan families that live abroad to ask them how they spend their Christmas and to find out whether or not they still celebrate Catalan traditions.

In Belgium, the Massard Sens family does their best to incorporate Catalan Christmas traditions into their Brussels home. For the family, the Christmas season lasts from the 5th of December, when Saint Nicholas arrives with gifts, to the 6th of January, with the arrival of the Three Kings. “The Kings don’t come all the way to Brussels as it is too far. But they do pass by grandfather's in Barcelona”, said Roser, the mum. But what does exist in Brussels is the famous Catalan Christmas log, the tió. It is also known as the caga tió. Every year, the Catalan House of Brussels has a communal caga tió. Children gather together to receive presents, and parents enjoy organising a party that reminds them of home.

However, for those who are not Catalan, caga tió is something of a surprise. For Ester's husband, Dylan, from the United States, caga tió was a bit of a shock. Both their children, who in live in New York, know about the Catalan traditions, but their father only came to discover the "poop log" upon meeting his Catalan wife. "It was shocking when I discovered what it was all about. I thought it was quite different: believing in Santa Claus as opposed to beating a log with a stick to make it poop presents. It is very interesting. Every year, when I talk about it with my boss or colleagues at work they haven't forgotten about it. It is almost impossible to forget a log that poops out presents!"

However, the surprise at traditions' differences is not one-sided. Ester was amazed at how Americans love buying the biggest Christmas tree possible. "We are used to having a small Christmas tree", she said. But she added that in the United States buying a tree is like a ritual.  "The entire family goes to buy the Christmas tree. And the most important thing is that your tree has to be as tall as your roof. It should be the biggest and fattest tree, but especially be as tall as your roof!"

Families made of Catalans and foreigners decide to mix their countries' traditions to create a new and special way of spending Christmas. This year, Marc and Elkes' family in Berlin will, for the first time, travel to Catalonia to celebrate Christmas. In Paris, Neus and Cédric are still debating about how they want to celebrate it with their son, Marçal, but they have decided to probably keep caga tió.