Christmas in Catalunya, and Barcelona in Particular, is not all that different to other Western cultures, with the festive period being a celebration and reflection of the ending of the year, anticipation of the coming year and a reason for families to get together and eat, drink and be merry. Spain is traditionally a predominantly Catholic Nation (although you wouldn't know it nowadays!), so Catalunya enjoys the typical traditions of Christmas - Christmas trees and decorations, winter scenes in shop windows, and of course the traditional Nativity scene. However, if you look closely at the Catalan Nativity scene, you might be more than a little surprised to find an extra character in there - and I'm not talking about another donkey or sheep. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with....the Caganer.
Dating as far back as the 18th Century, The Caganer (Literally the "Shitter" in Catalan) is not a joke and is a very serious traditional part of a Nativity scene - I think the idea behind the presence of the traditional country labourer crouched over, reflects the need to re-fertilise the earth for the coming crops and harvest. Fine idea if you ask me, odd way of presenting this, right?!
Either way, it doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks about the Caganer, who has been around for years and is here to stay. In fact, so popular has the Caganer become that he now takes the form of a famous politician, football player, or anyone who's become particularly famous that year in Catalan culture, or who has grabbed the world's attention. So it's completely normal to have a traditional Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, accompanied by the shepherds, oxen and of course, Carles Puyol - Captain of FC Barcelona. Or perhaps Ivan de la Peña from rival locals RCD Espanyol. You get the picture.
No Christmas Market Stall is complete without the varying rows of Caganers on sale, and they always seems to be someone buying one. One of the great new additions for Christmas 2008 is of course, new US President, Barak Obama!!
Christmas in Barcelona is a great time to visit, with bustling shops and markets such as the Christmas Market in the Gothic Quarter, mild weather and fantastic food. Look into finding a self-catering apartment for rent in Barcelona, to really live like a local.