Sure, putting a Christmas tree in your house seems pretty arbitrary considering the true religious context of the holiday. But beating a smiling, hollowed-out Christmas log until it “defecates” in your fireplace takes the celebration in Catalonia to a whole new level.
In Catalan, Tió de Nadal is roughly translated to Christmas Log and is a widespread tradition in many parts of Spain. According to Catalan mythology, the Christmas Log brings small presents on Christmas (big presents come from the Three Wise Men) in the same way presents are placed under Christmas trees in United States. Originally, the Tió de Nadal was just a piece of dead wood, but now the log is often given a face with an attached nose and two little legs, along with a little red hat similar to a barretina.
If it stopped right there, it wouldn’t be that strange. Just another present-delivering vehicle adopted by a different culture. But it doesn’t stop there, that’s only the beginning. It all starts on the Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8. Tradition states that households begin to “feed” the log every night starting then. The log is also usually given a small blanket during this time to keep it warm during the chilly weeks before Christmas.
After weeks of feeding, it is finally Christmas Eve and the log is placed in the fireplace, little face and beret staring up from the ground. Members of the house then take turns bashing the little log person with a stick and commanding it to defecate out presents, candies and wafers and not to defecate stinky herring. This is where the tradition got its other name, Caga tió, or shit log.
The bashing continues while traditional songs about the log are sung. Christmas is then celebrated to the delight of everyone in the house as they reach below the tió’s blanket to pull out their “gifts” of defecated candy and presents.