The thread takes an unexpected turn:
I laughed when I read what your reader wrote:
I have to object to the [previous] reader’s characterization of the “Christian tendency to turn religious holidays into occasions for inventing impossible narratives (a flying fat man and a giant bunny delivering toys and candy respectively)” I’m sorry, but that is a British/American tendency, not a Christian one. Spain, for one, did not turn either Easter or Christmas into any such thing, nor did any country in its vicinity.
Apparently he’s never heard of caga tió, the gift-shitting Christmas log:
The Tió de Nadal, popularly called Caga tió (“shitting log”), is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia. The form of the Tió de Nadal found in many Catalan homes during the holiday season is a hollow log of about thirty centimetres length. Recently, the tió has come to stand up on two or four little stick legs with a broad smiling face painted on the higher of the two ends, enhanced by a little red sock hat (a miniature of the traditional Catalan barretina) and often a three-dimensional nose.
Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió a little bit to “eat” every night and usually covers him with a little blanket so that he will not be cold at night.
On Christmas day or, depending on the particular household, on Christmas Eve, one puts the tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to defecate; the fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace. To make it defecate one beats the tió with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal.
The tradition says that before beating the tió all the kids have to leave the room and go to another place of the house to pray asking for the tió to deliver a lot of presents. This makes the perfect excuse for the relatives to do the trick and put the presents under the blanket while the kids are praying.
The tió does not drop larger objects, as those are considered to be brought by the Three Wise Men. It does leave candies, nuts and torrons. Depending on the part of Catalonia, it may also give out dried figs. When nothing is left to “shit”, it drops a salt herring, a head of garlic, an onion or “urinates”. What comes out of the tió is a communal rather than individual gift, shared by everyone present.
Update from a reader:
You simply can’t inform your readers about the Caga Tio without also highlighting the peculiar custom of the Caganers. In Spain nativity displays (a belen) are very popular. My husband’s father has accumulated a nativity display that includes an entire village, farms, animals, etc. that takes days to set up. A feature called the “caganer” is a figure – a shepherd, villager etc. – who is obscurely placed in the belen and is often, well, taking a dump. Children (and adults) search the display to find the caganer. If you search shops and Christmas markets you can even find “action” caganers – with animated arms swiping a tiny tissue across their rear. And if that’s not strange enough, you can find innumerable examples of “celebrity” caganers – small figures of everyone from Queen Elizabeth to the Pope, President Obama to Madonna and every member of Real Madrid et al. – all taking a dump. Great gifts for back home if you happen to be in Barcelona over the holidays!