If you’re a kid in Catalonia, you don’t get your Christmas treats from a fireplace-hung stocking. Instead, you have to take sticks and beat them out of a blanket-covered wooden log. The Tió de Nadal (or Caga Tió, ‘poop log’), a specially decorated log with a smiley face and little stick legs, is kept in the house from 8 December, when Catalans celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Catalans can get these logs at Christmas markets and even supermarkets. Once tió has taken up residence in the house, children look after it by keeping it warm under a blanket and leaving it food and water every night—the more generous they are, the more the log can be expected to give back.
Pre-made Christmas logs for sale at a Catalan market.
PHOTO: SheepRUs, Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
After all that nurturing, on Christmas Day the log is “ready” to literally poop out its goodies, and is ordered to do so as the children sing songs and take turns to whack it with sticks. Of course, at this point the parents have secretly filled the log with treats such as candy, nuts, and nougat, while the children have been sent out of the room to pray that tió will deliver good presents.
Thus, once all the songs are sung and the log has been given a good beating, the children lift the blanket to find what the log has pooped out, and everyone shares the treats. Traditionally the log was burnt in the fireplace, and ashes scattered on the fields to ensure a good harvest the following year. However, these days the family just stores the log in a cupboard until next year's festivities.
In case you are curious, here are the lyrics to one of the traditional Catalan pooping log songs:
Avellanes i mató,
Si no cagues bé
Et daré un cop de bastó.
Shit nougats (turrón),
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,