Spain is filled with rich Christmas traditions and celebrations. Every region offers its own distinctive flair to the varying holidays and holy days throughout the Christmas season. From elaborate beléns — or nativity scenes — to the Basque Father Christmas, you can find all manner of rich celebratory culture. One of the more interesting Christmas traditions hails from the Catalonia region of Spain. Also celebrated in some areas of Aragon, Tio de Nadal — or Festival of the Pooping Log — is a beloved Spanish Christmas tradition. Originally, the Tio de Nadal — sometimes referred to as simply Tió or Tronca — was a hollow log brought inside to symbolize the gifts of warmth and light. These days the Tió is a bit more dressed up, with the addition of legs, a face, a traditional Catalan hat called a barrentina, and a little red blanket.
Tio de Nadal origin
Tio de Nadal dates back to the industrial era, when feces was big business. Catalan farmers used excrement to fertilize their fields, and the buying and selling of waste provided a valuable source of revenue for the Catalan people. While the custom of buying and selling feces has stopped, traditions surrounding this long lost source of income found their way into modern Catalan Christmas celebrations. The poo trade lent itself to many festive traditions, including the caganer, a little ceramic person defecating in nativity scenes, and the Tió log.
How To Celebrate Tio de Nadal
Each year, beginning after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, Catalan families will bring out their log to feed it offerings of nuts, vegetables, and water. Children feed the Tió in the hopes that he will bring them sweet treats on Christmas Eve. To keep the Tió happy and warm, he is often covered up with his little red blanket.
Tio de Nadal Christmas Celebrations
On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (it varies, depending on the family’s tradition), the children will gather around their log and begin beating it with sticks while singing a traditional song — called the Caga Tió — to entice him to “poop” out some presents. After they have beaten the log and sang their song, the children go into another room to pray to the Tió to bring them their sweet treats. When they return, they lift up the blanket to discover that their log has dropped goodies, so to speak. Each member of the family takes a turn reaching into the pile that was left for them and passes Tió’s gifts around to share. After the family has feasted on the treats, the Tió is traditionally burned to provide the family warmth.