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El Caganer - Lookout for the Pooper

By The Equalizer - Mon 5th Dec 2011

Anyone who has looked at a nativity scene in a church, school or shopping centre around the east of Spain - notably Catalonia - will probably have noticed a small figure crouched at the back of the manger, behind the baby Jesus, crouching with his pants round his ankles and taking, what I believe is commonly referred to as "a dump".

The cheeky little feller who is wearing a red hat that wouldn´t look out of place on one of the seven dwarves is actually called "Caganer", and has not been put there as a joke by the shopkeeper, or some school kid, but is actually a well-known and popular tradition in Catalonia, Valencia and parts of Murcia.

What isn´t fully known or understood is the story of how El Caganer, or "The Pooper" as I suppose the most accurate translation would probably read, actually came about.

El Caganer - Lookout for the PooperCaganer is thought to have gained popularity in the late 17th and early 18th century and, although not necessarily embraced by the Roman Catholic church, it has become "tolerated" - so much so that almost every nativity seen in Churches throughout the east of Spain comes complete with a figurine crouched at the back of the stable.

Historians, Academics and lay-preachers alike have all tried to find an explanation for his origin - some being more plausible than others - and just a few of these opinions are listed here:

1.) Inconvenience : God will manifest himself on earth when he alone is good and ready

2.) Equality : Everybody - young and old, high station and low, defecates

3.) Paganism : A nod to earlier religions, with Caganer being shown fertilizing the earth.

4.) Realism : A reminder of the fragility of life on earth, and all that it involves.

However, Caganer can still divide opinion between those who see the harmless sense of fun in the tradition and those who believe that such low humour has no place in church.

In today´s Spain Caganer is perhaps the most popular nativity figure and is especially popular with children who like to `Hunt the Caganer´, and with many an enterprising satirist manufacturing and selling more current models of Caganer in a newer and more modern guise. Over recent years Barack Obama and Mariano Rajoy have both been portrayed as Caganer, and it is by no means unusual to see Christmas market stalls dedicated to selling nothing more than figurines of various Caganers.

Caganer´s typically regional dress (at least in the traditional version of the figurine) has ensured that he has been seized by the fiercely proud Catalans, and when a recent nativity scene at the Barcelona City Hall did not contain the figure it caused an outcry across the region.

Comment on this Blog

Sounds like a typical Catalan : Dumping wherever and on whoever he likes, and to hell with the consequences !
C Timpson - Fri, 14th Dec 2012

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