TNB Night Owl – Caga Tio

Caga Tio, photo by Toniher.

The yule log is a tradition that traverses borders; from its origins in Scandanavian paganism to the modern incarnation of a televised fireplace with Christmas carols being played in the background, there’s something festive about an abnormally large chunk of wood taking its place in the fire, bringing warmth and light to the seasonal darkness. In Catalan, they’ve got a different use for the log, though. In that area of Spain, it defecates.

“Evacuates” might be a more appropriate word, but as “caga” is typically translated to “poop”, defecation seems more accurate. Caga Tio, or “Uncle Poop”, is a large log with a face painted on one end and often little nubs for “arms” that are used to brace it upward at an angle.

Starting in early December, at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, children begin leaving food in front of Caga Tio before going to bed each night. In the morning, the food is gone. Caga Tio is getting full.

On Christmas Day, Caga Tio has his rear covered with a blanket and the kids are given wetted sticks. They then beat the log with the sticks while singing to him.

There are two common versions of this song and a variety of local permutations.

The first:

Caga tió,
Caga torró,
Avellanes i mató,
Si no cagues bé
Et daré un cop de bastó.
Caga tió!

Translation: Uncle Poop, poop turron (a type of candy), hazelnuts and cheese. If you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, Uncle Poop!”

The second:

Caga tió,
Tió de Nadal,
No caguis arengades,
Que són massa salades
Caga torrons
Que són més bons!”

Translation: Uncle poop, Christmas Uncle, don’t poop salted herring, they are too salty. Poop turrons, they are much better!

In either case, the kids are looking for candy in return for feeding the log for a few weeks. After all the kids (and any adults who wish to participate) have hit the log, the blanket is unfurled to see what presents and candy he has “left”. If that’s all, the kids are free to play with the presents and eat the candy; if there might be more inside the log (i.e., there were more gifts than could be easily hidden with only one blanket) the children once more get to beat the wooden uncle (aside: “beating the wooden uncle” now ranks among my favorite phrases which sound obscene, but aren’t) with sticks, and are then sent from the room to play while the adults wait for Caga Tio to do his business again.

Here’s a little clip of Anthony Bourdain getting Norah Jones to sing one of the song variants:

Question of the night: What’s your favorite holiday treat?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.