Christmas in Catalonia
I have only been to one city in Spain: Barcelona. Because Barcelona is Catalonian, the holiday traditions are different from the rest of the country.
From Why Christmas:
In the Catalonia province of Spain there’s a Christmas character called ‘Tió de Nadal’ (the Christmas log) or he’s sometimes known as ‘Caga tio’ (the pooping log!). It’s a small hollow log propped up on two legs with a smiling face painted on one end. From the 8th December (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) Catalan families gives the log a few morsels of food to ‘eat’ and a blanket to keep it warm. On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, the log then ‘gives out’ small gifts! People sing a special song and hit the log with sticks to help its ‘digestion’ and the log drops sweets, nuts, and dried fruits. When garlic or an onion falls out of the log, all of the treats are finished for the year.
Nativity Scenes ‘Pesebres’ are also popular in Catalonia (and all throughout Spain!). Many towns also hold ‘Pastorets’ which are big plays/presentations about the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. They have lots of music and readings from the Bible. You can find out more about Pastorets on the Pastoret Society of Catalunya’s website (goes to another site).
An unusual figure which is popular and traditional in Pesebres in Catalonia is ‘El Caganer’ which means ‘the poo-er’! And yes, it’s a figure of a person going to the toilet! It’s normally a a figure of a Catalan peasant, wearing the traditional red Catalan cap (called a barretina) squatting with their trousers/pants down and well, you know… New versions of El Caganer are now produced each year, often with the faces of celebrities and politicians! This figure has been part of nativity scenes in Catalonia since the early 18th century. It’s often hidden in a back corner of the Pesebre, well away from the stable! Similar figures can also sometimes be found in scenes in other areas in Spain such as Andorra, Valencia and Murcia; in Northern Catalonia (in southern France), Naples (in Italy) and some parts of Portugal.
A special cake called ‘Roscón’ is eaten at Epiphany. Roscón means ‘ring shape roll’. It is very doughy and is bought from a bakery on Epiphany morning. Roscón can be filled with cream or chocolate and contain a little gift.