Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Caga Tio - Catalan Christmas Tradition Embraced in Belgium

Modern Caga Tios at the Christmas Market in  Barcelona, Spain
According to a Catalan friend, traditional tios - big, unadorned stumps - were nothing like these cute critters!

Barcelona Tourist Guide explains: ¨The name Caga Tio means 'Poo Log.' Every day between  08 December  and Christmas Eve, children look after the Caga Tio. They cover him with a blanket to make sure that he is warm and they feed him every evening. This is to ensure that he is nice and full so that he will poo out lots of treats on Christmas!¨ 
Click here for more details.

Our Caga Tio at Supper
Brussels, Belgium

Caga Tio Abroad

Thanks to Caga Tio, Christmas with the kids of my extended family was a hit. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, all one needs to steal the show is a log outfitted as Santa and a tall tale convincingly told. 

My sister´s in-laws live in Belgium. I spent this Christmas with them, along with my sis, her hubby, and my fab niece, Amelie, who is just six months old. Bram and Lucie, the sweet children of my in-laws, are five and three respectively. They were riveted as we translated the saga of Caga Tio from Spanish to English and finally into their mother tongue, French. I began by explaining that Caga Tio was from Barcelona and that he didn´t like to travel, especially on planes. For this reason, he had arrived in Belgium a bit out of sorts.

¨Would you make him feel welcome?¨ I asked.  
¨Of course,¨ they nodded in unison. 

As instructed, at nightfall they fed, sang to and then covered  Caga Tio with a warm blanket. In the morning they came upstairs to wake me so we could sing the Caga Tio song and ¨see if he had pooped.¨ At that point, I reminded the kids that Caga Tio sometimes suffered from constipation. The cream rich diet in Belgium was wreaking havoc with my system. I intimated that the effects could be much worse for Caga Tio, a woodland native accustomed to a vegetarian diet. 

¨How do you help him poop should he be blocked up?¨ I inquired.
They answered gravely,¨By spanking him on the bottom.¨

One song and a few spanks later, the kids' hands were full of Caga Tio´s treats. Unfortunately, this is where the story takes a turn for the worse. I had set their expectations WAY too high. Despite their attempts to hide the disappointment, I got the distinct feeling they had expected real presents, not stocking stuffers. Maybe the meaning of treat was lost in translation?

Lucky for me, the beauty of young kids is that their active imaginations can not only take in almost anything, but also accept just about everything and then move on at lightning speed. After guiltily watching them for a minute or so, I was relieved to realize it was the story of Caga Tio, not the gifts he gave, that would be remembered.