Catalan statehood is in vogue, which leads many to ask: What makes Catalans so different? This blog has previously covered Catalans’ vermut for breakfast, super-hot girls in bad haircutsscrewy soundsetc., etc., etc. — we’re huge fans.

But more than anything, it’s Catalans’ glorification of excrement that proves that they are a truly singular people who deserve their own passports — and possibly their own secured borders.

Caganers in shop. Photo by Oriol Gascon.

Caganers in shop. Photo by Oriol Gascon.

Caganer — The Christmas Shitter

At Christmas time, nativity scenes spring up in homes, shop windows, town halls, and public plazas throughout Catalonia. In these, alongside the baby Jesus, wise men, etc, there is nearly always a caganer, which translates as a “shitter”. The “classic” caganer is a peasant in a red cap with his pants pulled down, squatting proudly over a little brown spiral of doo. Sometimes, for propriety, the figure is set off a ways from the baby Jesus, but you can always find him somewhere. At this point the caganer has been popping up in the region’s nativity scenes for hundreds of years, so the Catalan Catholic church quite literally has to put up with his shit. Shops supplying Christmas decorations in Catalonia hawk caganers in countless variations.

A giant caganer in a shopping mail. Photo by Rafel Miro.

A giant caganer in a shopping mail. Photo by Rafel Miro.

The tradition has become a bit emblematic of Christmastime in Catalonia, and now famous politicians, sports stars and other public figures can also be bought in minuture, shitting form. There is also, reportedly, a €150K Catalan export business in variations of these shitting figurines. And they’re not always so small; the 19-foot-tall version seen at right was erected in a shopping mall in 2010.

Think this is just a frivolous joke to Catalans? Witness the outcry that resulted in 2005, when the city government failed to include a shitting peasant in the official city nativity scene. The caganer was quickly restored in 2006.

Pantalons Cagats — Shitted Pants

Pantalons cagats

Pantalons cagats

Sure, fashion is subjective. But I’m at a loss as to how even Catalans find aesthetic joy in brightly colored cotton pants whose crotch hangs and waggles at knee level. And their name for this uniquely goofy garment makes the effect much worse; pantalons cagats means “shitted pants”. One suspects that in the Catalan imagination, shittiness is such a positive that it can justify wearing this droopy, de-sexualizing fashion atrocity.

Caga Tió — The Shitting Christmas Log

Caga tíos on sale in a plaza in Barcelona. Photo by Mose Hayward.

Caga tiós on sale in a plaza in Barcelona. Photo by Mose Hayward.

Other cultures hang stockings, leave their shoes outside, mount a piñata… there are so many world holidays that offer elaborate excuses to give children candy. The Catalans, for their part, coax their children to hit logs with sticks until the logs “shit” out treats.

These logs are named Caga Tiós, or Shitting Logs, and each one is “fed” a bit every evening leading up to Christmas. That’s when the family gathers around him with sticks. Then they sing, ordering him to shit. I know you probably don’t believe me, so just watch the video below.

The standard version of the song:

Caga tió!

Caga torró,

avellanes i mató.

Si no cagues bé

et daré un cop de bastó!

Caga tió!

Translation:

Shit, log!

Shit out nougat,

hazelnuts and cheese.

If you don’t shit it all out

I’ll hit you with this stick!

Shit, log!

 

When the song is finished, the family reaches under the blanket to see what goodies the Caga Tió has produced for them to eat.

(By the way, the version of the song in the above video is slightly different. Also, check out how excited the kid gets at the beginning. “Ja ha cagat!” he shouts — “he’s already shat!”)

Els Pets — The Farts

Arguably, the most popular rock band in Catalonia and one of the longest-running is Els Pets. How far would the Beatles have gotten if they’d chosen to call themselves The Farts? Such a name in Catalonia, however, seems to be no obstacle.

Shit, So Many Shit-Based Expressions

As you might expect from the above, shit is always on the tip of a Catalan tongue.

  • For good luck, Catalans wish you “a lot of shit” (“molta merda!” = break a leg!).
  • Worrywarts “shits doubts” all the time (“cagadubtes“).
  • You can “shit it up” (“te l’has cagat” = you fucked up).
  • If, on the other hand, you do things very quickly you’re “shitting milk” (“cagant llets“).
  • If you’re an “underpants-shitter” (“cagacalces“) you’re obviously a coward.
  • If you “shit yourself in the salty sea” (“em cago en la mar salada“)1I’m told that this expression is a bit dated. you’re just generally swearing at your bad fortune.
  • To describe an ocher color, use the term merda d’oca — “the color of goose shit“.
  • Pets de llop — “wolf farts” are a type of explosive, fecally malodorous mushrooms that I’ve been told litter the Catalan countryside. In my years in Catalonia, I’ve never entered the woods, and now, I never will.
  • If a Catalan wants to tell you to fuck off, he’ll instruct you to go shit yourself, or, “ves-te’n a cagar“. Amusingly, this contains a combination of weak object pronouns, which are notoriously difficult for even Catalans to get right. They’re liable to say “ves-te a cagar” at which point you can correct them and they’ll really be pissed off.
  • If you don’t have a care in the world, you shit it up in everything — “em cago en tot“.
  • If you’re very angry, you can shit on the whore (“em cago en la puta“) or shit on the communion wafer (“em cago en la òstia“)2Yes, that’s what this actually means..
  • If someone is very drunk, he’s carrying a shit like a piano (“porta una merda com un piano“).
  • If you’re angry with someone, you say to him “a cagar a la via“, or “go shit on the train tracks“, in the hopes that a train will hit him during his caganer moment.
  • Possibly most vexing is the Catalan version of “they’re like two peas in a pod”. Two very good friends are “com cul i merda“, i.e., “they’re like ass and shit“. It’s hardly an expression that begs to be overthought, but you do have to wonder why Catalans conceive of these “friends” as staying together any longer than they might have to.

Certain readers of this blog were upset that I didn’t list every single Catalan expression involving shit; I have thus done so, here.

Candy Poop

Naughty boys and girls don’t get coal in Catalonia. The three wise men leave, you guessed it, poop. Candy poop, usually in a toy toilet. It’s made of chocolate and marzipan, and presumably indoctrinating children early with faux-coprophagia inoculates them against the natural revulsion they might otherwise feel growing up Catalan with the rest of these traditions. Other faux-coprophagia for children includes the cookies below, and the use of the term merda d’abella, or bee shit, as a “childish” word for honey.

The fake poop, preset in its toy toilet, is available in candy shops at holiday time.

Pets de Monja — Nun Fart Cookies

Pets_de_monja

Pets de monja, or nun-farts. Photo by Tina VallèsTina Vallès.

 

The famous Catalan walnut sugar cookie was, according to the Catalan government, originally known as nuns’ tits, or pits de monja. Who knows why the cookies — invented by an Italian baker in Barcelona — were ascribed to nuns, but they certainly do have nipples. Regardless, Catalans fecal obsession eventually triumphed and over the past century they changed the i to an e, resulting in pet, or fart. Catalan kids now clamor to eat nun farts.

Visca Merda, Visca Catalunya

We hope that’s enough evidence to turn even folks from the Partido Popular into ardent defenders of self-determination for the Catalan people. If not, there’s lots more. So visca Catalunya, i independència jà!

 

 

 

Updates to this Post

This post was originally published on Dec. 19, 2012. On Feb. 26, 2015 and March 3, 2015, shit expressions were updated and expanded, pets de monja were added, and there were other edits. On March 9, 2015, the shit expressions were further expanded into their own post. Rather pathetically, no updates have been necessary on the political situation at all. What’s going on Catalans?

Notes   [ + ]

1. I’m told that this expression is a bit dated.
2. Yes, that’s what this actually means.