‘Load of old tat’: How people are reacting to Barcelona’s controversial nativity scene

Some have called it a disgrace, others joked that people have dumped their old tat in the square in front of Barcelona's City Hall.

‘Load of old tat': How people are reacting to Barcelona’s controversial nativity scene
Photo: gelpi/Depositphotos

You know the Christmas season is here when social media becomes awash with criticism for Barcelona’s Belen – the Nativity scene installed by City Hall in the Plaça Sant Jaume.

Continuing a tradition that began when Ada Colau became mayor five years ago, the Nativity scene unveiled on Friday immediately divided opinions and left many scratching their heads as to the meaning it was supposed to convey.

This year’s offering may at first glance appear not to have been unpacked properly as the figures one expects to find in a traditional depiction of the Christmas story all appear in old wooden storage boxes.

Baby Jesus in his crib takes pride of place in the centre ( in a wooden crate) and piled in boxes around  him it is possible to spot Mary, Joseph, the odd farm animal, visiting shepherds, a wise man astride a camel and even an angle.

So the elements are there.

But the characters are joined by other boxes containing the detritus of Christmas; a poinsettia, boxed up baubles, a turkey roasting in a tin, tangles of tinsel and a Christmas hamper.

“When I think of the nativity scene, what comes to mind is Christmases spent living at my parents' house. For me, the most notable thing was not setting up the scene, arranging the elements of the stable on a table and placing the figurines around the manger, but rather all the previous preparation that led up to it,” said artist Paula Bosch explaining her inspiration for the installation.

“It started with a visit to the attic and rummaging through all the storage boxes.”

But although her reference is clear, her artistry hasn’t been appreciated by everyone.

“Instead of a nativity scene, it looks like a storage room,” said one detractor on Twitter.

Another joked that Ada Colau had set up a new ‘Punto Limpia’ in Plaça Sant Jaume. “You can take your old tat to throw away and recycle”.

Someone else said it looked “like a rummage sale”, while another said it was like a “kitsch stall at a flea market”.

Another cleverly announced that it was Black Friday in Plaça Sant Jaume – meaning everything was going cheap.

Josep Bou Vila, a city councillor for the conservative PP branded it “a disgrace” and pointed out that the installation that cost €97,000 looked like a recycling dump. 

In 2016, the elements of the traditional stable scene were placed individually in their own snow globe, including a cow on skis emblazed with the Catalan flag.

The following year, in 2017, the scene was represented by white cardboard cutouts on stilts.

Even more bizarre was the effort in 2018 when giant chairs set around a Christmas table represented the holy figures.

READ ALSO: Spanish word of the day: Belén


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.