Christmas time began a few days ago and all towns lit up every night Christmas decorations that bring color to all main streets and avenues. Markets are something very typical of this season as well, like the Christmas market of Santa Llúcia (Saint Lucy). This is one of the oldest and biggest markets you can visit this month in Barcelona, you will find it in the big square in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona.
The origin of this market dates back to the XVIIIth century when many people would congregate in the chapel of Saint Lucy in the Cathedral. People would bring offerings to ask the saint to keep their good eyesight. Around the cathedral images of saints and figures to represent the nativity scene would be sold on stalls in the street.
In the XIXth century it was already a well-established Christmas tradition that parents with their children would go for a walk in the market to look and buy the missing figures and other miniatures to make their own manger at home.
Nowadays this market counts with over 270 wooden booths that sell varied products. You will find figures in wood, plastic or hand made in clay, it is possible to buy moss, holly, cork oak and other materials to build a manger as realistic as possible. Christmas ornaments of all kind are also sold such as garlands, socks, candles, and little Father Christmas or Christmas trees.
In this market though you will find at least a couple of things you have never seen before. First of all the tió, secondly the caganer.
Tió is a log that usually shows a smiley face and wears a typical Catalan soft cap -the red barretina- that is used in Catalan homes in Christmas. He will be kept and be well fed at home for nearly a month. How? It is easy, children in every house they will cover the tió with a blanket to make sure he is not cold and bring fruit and biscuits every evening to him for dinner. In the morning children usually make sure the tió has eaten all up, because only in this way he will be healthy and ready on Christmas night to “poo” (as it is literally said in Catalan language) as many presents as possible! You will probably find this crazy just like everybody else in Spain! Remember this is a Catalan tradition only.
If the story of the tió shocked you a bit, wait to read the one about the caganer. We would like to say that we do not pretend to be vulgar but the literal translation for caganer is “the pooing man”. Yes, it represents a shepherd having his daily bowel movement, wearing a white shirt and black pants and of course the typical barretina soft cap. The caganer is an essential figure in every Catalan manger. Probably, quite well hidden behind a tree, of course.