Caganer: A load of holiday cheer

Tis again the season for caganer, especially in Catalonia. AnneLise Sorrensen, in Rough Guide, describes this Christmas tradition:

The Catalan nativity scene, el pessebre, festively displayed in homes across Catalunya, appears as idyllic as any other. A thumb-sized Jesus, warmed by a circle of farm animals, sleeps peacefully under the gaze of Mary and Joseph. It seems to be the picture of piety – but that’s only to the untrained eye. Every Catalan kid knows that crouching in the back shadows is el caganer, Catalunya’s most recognized little insurgent, a paisano who’s taken a moment out of his day to “answer nature’s call” or, in less delicate terms, to “hacer caca”.

“Jesus may be the most saintly figure of the nativity scene, but the caganer is the most popular,” says Josep Maria Joan Rosa, a long-time toy collector and director of the Museu del Joguet de Catalunya (Toy Museum of Catalunya) in Figueres. “When I was a kid,” he says, “we all clamored to hide the caganer in the nativity scene, and then see if our friends could find it. It was the best game at Christmas.” For an eye-catching exhibit of the little defecators, head to the Museu del Joguet, which has Spain’s only permanent collection of caganers.

BONUS: A bit more about the tradition.