Why Spain's Catalonia celebrates Christmas with someone having a poo

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Why Spain's Catalonia celebrates Christmas with someone having a poo
Greta Thunberg, Queen Elizabeth of England, William Shakespeare and a Squid Game character are just some of the popular public figures immortalised taking a dump. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

No one - from Ukraine's President Zelensky to climate activist Greta Thunberg - is safe from being immortalised as a defecating figurine used to decorate nativity scenes. Welcome to the bizarre world of Catalonia’s Christmas ‘crappers’.


Visit any Catalan home at Christmas and you may well find yourself lost as you gaze into the nativity scene or Belén

Joseph and Mary will be in pride of place around the manger next to baby Jesus, the three Kings will likely be in attendance too, along with a group of shepherds and a set of traditional farmyard animals.

But look closer and you will spot a figure squatting with his or her pants down, bare bottom raised over a little brown pile of poo – glance up at the face and chances are it's a face you recognise.

This is el caganer, which can be roughly translated as ‘the crapper’, and believe it or not they’ve become big business for artisans in the northeastern region. 

Photo: AFP

But before we delve into the international success of these miniature excreters, let’s ask the question you may be wondering - who came up with the idea for the caganer (crapper)?

Well, nobody really knows who the caganer's inventor was, but historians believe the tradition could date back anywhere from the 18th century to the 14th century. 


What seems clear is that the first depiction was not as a figurine in a nativity scene but rather in two dimensions on marble, tile or stone. 

Some historians say it had religious connotations from the start, others that it was meant to symbolise daily occurrences in life, but what seems clear is that the caganer’s origins are Catalan and have formed part of local folklore for a long time. 

Interestingly, these pinkie-sized defecators are also popular in the Valencia region, Murcia, Naples and Portugal.

Caganers representing the independence struggle have surged in popularity. Photo: AFP

Traditional caganers are made from clay, fired in a kiln and then hand-painted. The classic figurines depict a pipe-smoking shepherd with a red Barretina hat, white shirt and black trousers, traditional wear in rural Catalonia back in the day.

When exactly they started forming part of the nativity scenes that decorate many homes in Catalonia is unknown.



But what historians do agree with is that the defecating figure perched behind Mary and Joseph is said to symbolise fertilisation, as well as bringing luck and prosperity for the year ahead.

That seems to have worked as Catalonia’s Christmas crappers are sticking around for good and making a name for themselves abroad.

We are not amused! Not even Queen Elizabeth II is taboo. Photo: AFP

Some families like to use the same figure year after year, often a character that has been passed down through the generations, and quite likely the traditional Catalan figure of a young peasant.

But as the caganer has evolved into a huge industry, all sorts are now produced, both in design and material.

There is a growing trend to purchase a new figure each year – a movement that is proving profitable for a handful of artisans who produce the figures each year.

Modern crappers represent public figures of the moment, from politicians to sporting heroes. 

New 2022 caganer figurines that are set to be popular this Christmas. Photo:

Cartoon characters, literary figures, film icons can all be found on the shelves of stalls selling caganers.

No one is above the cheeky satire that sees celebrities bare their bottoms and perform a call of nature from the late George Michael to Pope Francis.

The company, which makes and sells over 600 different characters said that some of the new and best-selling figurines in 2022 will be FC Barcelona player Robert Lewandowski, singers Lady Gaga and Harry Styles, and characters from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things

Politicians are often favourites too. This year new and popular additions will be President Zelensky of Ukraine, Spanish politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

Politicians from around the world are always popular figures. Photo:

UK readers may want to buy a caganer of the new monarch, King Charles III to grace their nativity scenes or new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Caganer sculptors have more than likely had to produce several different UK leaders this year in anticipation). 

Climate activist Greta Thunberg will also be ‘fertilising’ nativity scenes with her own carbon-free emissions, as well as historic characters such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

Caganer figure of climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: AFP
Although some devout Christians may question if this tradition is inappropriate, it’s very much here to stay. 

As for whether it’s more of an honour or a disgrace to be turned into caganer, it’s fair to say that it's more light-hearted fun than mockery.

If anything, it’s proof that you’ve made it into the ‘poo-blic’ eye. 

Footballers Robert Lewandowski and Balón de Oro winner Karim Benzema even have their own caganers. Photo:


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2021/11/30 01:19
Shouldn't Mr. Trumps' pooh be comming out the other end?

See Also