Who brings Catalan children their presents?

Between a defecating log and sumptuous kings, gift-givers in Catalonia are far from usual

Tió figurines at the Christmas Espinelves market in 2018 (by Estefania Escolà)
Tió figurines at the Christmas Espinelves market in 2018 (by Estefania Escolà) / Rachel Bathgate

Rachel Bathgate | Barcelona

December 18, 2018 02:37 PM

The holidays are around the corner and, like in many places around the world, Catalan children are writing their lists and hoping for that one desired gift. But, who are these letters addressed to…who brings the presents?

little girl

Pare Noel, also known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus, is indeed one of the contenders, and many children do receive presents from the jolly, red-and-white clad figure. However, it’s not Catalonia’s own tradition, and it’s a fairly recent one at that.

Tió de Nadal: the defecating log

It all begins with a Tió, meaning ‘log’ in Catalan. It’s not just any log, though: this one has a friendly face, a hat, and legs. Starting December 8, children receive their Tió, then take it home, wrap it in blankets, feed it every day, then sing a song while hitting it with a stick.


All this to help the Tió with its main Christmas mission: to poo out the food that it’s been fed throughout the month as presents, which magically appear under the blanket once the kids leave the room to give their Tió privacy!

Oncle Buscall: a newer addition

In many schools throughout Catalonia, the Tió is brought to the classrooms by a woodsman character named Oncle Buscall, often impersonated by an adult – and sometimes, by one of the students, as well.


And in the most diverse neighborhoods, the tradition of the tións also allows for children from various backgrounds, religions, and cultures to participate in this Catalan tradition – one that belongs to the holiday, but not to any dogma.

The Three Kings: the big show

Then, there’s the epiphany, which brings the arrival of the Three Kings, known also as the three wise men. Coming all the way from the East, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar arrive to Catalonia on January 5th in a giant parade, greeted by children of all ages.


That very night – the most magical of the year for the little ones, who often can barely sleep – the Kings make their way to every house to deliver gifts ordered by letter, and to eat the drink and food children left out for them, and for their camels.

The Red Cross: a helping hand

Sometimes, even kings need help…like from the Red Cross and their campaign collecting new toys to give out to those in need. And this year, the youth section of the NGO aims to give out toys to over 23,000 children in socially vulnerable situations.


The objective is to collect some 70,000 toys that are “new, non-sexist, non-violent, and that preferably promote cooperation,” said the organization at its presentation. The campaign runs until January 4, so you can participate, too – so that every child gets their present.