Friday, December 23, 2011

Squatting in the Plaça Sant Jaume

Christmas is upon us but it’s pretty much passing me by.  For one thing I’ll be alone that day which isn’t really all that merry, but with that I could cope with my two cats for company.  Seriously important is that little Felix the cat is sick.  He’s at the vet today and will remain there overnight, probably suffering from Pancreatitis.  Little Felix is a cat who is normally full of beans, so I’m hoping his natural vivacity will help him to rally and overcome this illness.  And when he feels better, he will have a lifetime of vet prescription, high quality, low-fat cat food to dine on.  No roast goose Christmas dinners for him.  Tomorrow I will know more.  All I want for Christmas is for Felix to recover and come home.

I had planned to write about the Catalan Christmas but have lost any inspiration that may have been lurking so this will be brief. 

Catalans spend a lot of money at Christmas, although a lot of that is on food for fancy dinners.  Gifts are given mainly for Kings on 6 January.  Santa Claus and Christmas trees have made inroads here, but the traditional and most ubiquitous Christmas decoration is the Nativity scene.

The figures in a Nativity scene might be just the holy family, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, or might include angels, the three Kings, villagers, and farm animals.  They might be small and simple or large and very elaborate.  Although it all sounds very religious, typically, the Nativity scenes in Catalunya include one extra figure – a man, somewhere at the periphery, squatting and shitting.  He is called the Caganer (which means “shitter”).  It’s good fun trying to find him in shop window displays or in large public displays such as can be found every year in the Plaça Sant Jaume, the main square of Barcelona where the City Hall sits on one side and the Palau de la Generaliltat (equivalent to a state capitol building) sits on the other.


  1. LOL! That is such a weird addition to the nativity . . . and why is he included?

    I'm sorry Felix is ill, but I'm betting that the vet will have him feeling fine by tomorrow and ready to come home for a nice, quiet Christmas Eve with you.

    I enjoy these journal entries, Dvora. Please find the inspiration to keep them coming, if only because you have at least one faithful reader.


  2. Thanks Diane! I don't think anyone knows the origin of the caganer. Nothing I've ever heard or read, including (in English) Barcelona by Robert Hughes, says exactly why.

    Generally, the Catalans are not especially religious (the Setmana Santa processions are much more popular in the south of Spain than they are here) and they are pretty irreverent. I've heard said that the caganer lends an earthy, realistic, human aspect to the holy scene. If you look at Catalan artist Joan Miro's famous painting (can't remember the name of it, but I believe it hangs at MOMA or somewhere in the US) of a farm (an image of the farm he lived in here, near Montroig) you'll see a little guy squatting (etc.) just to the left of the tree.

  3. Hello,

    Did you fins the shop in the Call I talked about in my previous comment?

    I mentioned that this year there would be a bi Khanukkija in Plaça St. Jaume but it was only the first day of Khanukka. I don't know why.
    Anyway I have heard that next year it will be the whole celebration there.

    I add a video of the cerimony. Best regards

  4. Hi Jaume,
    Yes, I did find the shop. I took some photos and intended to include it in this post, together with images of the pessebre de sorra in La Pineda, but my cat became very ill and I was too upset to write a longer post.
    But thanks for the information and this video. The shop will make it much easier to buy candles next year, if I'm still living here (hopefully I will have sold my villa and moved further north by then).

  5. Oh, I hope that you cat is better now.

  6. Thanks Jaume, his pancreas is improving but now he has a bad cold. Poor little guy. But I hope this too will pass soon. And thanks for becoming a follower!