Is this the most quirky tradition ever?

The Catalans have a general quirkiness that nicely complements their warmth, humor, passion and intense nationalism.

Take, for example, the tradition of  ‘El Caganer’.

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Each Christmas, when Catalans prepare a Nativity scene in their home or business, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the shepherds are not the only figures on show.

There’s also ‘El Caganer’, a little man squatting down and – there’s no delicate way of saying this – answering a call of nature.

The ‘Caganer’ has been a part of Catalan Christmas mangers for at least two centuries.

Fertility or equality?

Some say it is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, with its origin in rural areas

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But, we were also told that the little man was a not-so-subtle reminder that all people are created equal.

And yet others said the tradition was just an example of the fact that Catalans are ‘different’ to their fellow Spaniards – and like it that way.

The last two explanations may tell us why the ‘Caganer’ is sometimes dressed like world leaders or even revered sporting heroes.

Regardless of the origin, it is generally agreed that El Caganer (literally ‘the pooper’) has been doing his business in Catalan mangers for centuries.

Human towers

Then there are the Castellers.

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On special holidays, groups of Catalan people gather together to climb on each other’s shoulders and form a massive human ‘tower’.

In some cases, these towers rise for seven stories – or higher.

The Castells are a source of great pride for the Catalan people.

They believe the construction of the human castles is indicative of the Catalan people’s ability to work in teams, persevere, endure suffering and, ultimately, to succeed.

Traditional treat for the taste buds

A more sedate tradition is ‘Pan Con Tomate’ (Bread with tomato).

This Catalan speciality involves scraping a tomato and clove of garlic on lightly toasted bread, followed by a dribble of olive oil.

The ‘Pan Con Tomate’ is often served as a separate tapas, but is a traditional opening dish at the well known Sunday family feast in Catalonia.

Each of these traditions has developed as part of life in a very special part of the planet.

Is ‘El Caganer’ the most offbeat tradition you’ve encountered? If not, we’d sure like to hear about others.

Main photo courtesy The El Guarda Posts

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