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El Caganer – Christmas Crapper in Catalan Christmas Nativity Scene

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El Caganer- Catalan Christmas Tradition

El Caganer or Caganer is a figurine depicted in Catalan Christmas nativity scene called “Pessebres”.

This is a strange and unique Christmas tradition in Catalonia and neighboring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, Valencia, Northern Catalonia (in southern France) and the Balearic Islands. It is also seen in other areas of Spain (Murcia), Portugal and southern Italy (Naples).

The name “el Caganer” literally means “the crapper” or “the shitter.”

He, or she, is a an elf or gnome-like figurine wearing the traditional Catalan red cap, the “barretina” and with his – or her – trousers down showing a bare backside and can be seen defecating.

Accompanying Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and company, the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the Christmas Manager of Nativity Scene and in the Catalan Countries there is a tradition of having children to find the hidden figure.

In Catalan culture, it is believed that putting a caganer brings luck and happiness to the home where the Christmas crib is setup.

The existence of the caganer or similar figurine can also be found in other European cultures like -

  • In France it is known as Père la Colique (“Father Cholic”).
  • In the Naples area it is known as cacone or pastore che caca.
  • In Portugal it is known as cagões.

Possible translations of the caganer concept into other languages include:

  • In the Dutch caganer is known as Kakkers which means “Pooper” in English while in German he is called Choleramännchen or Hinterlader which in English means “Little Cholera Man” or “Breech-loader”.

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