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NOTES OF SOME CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS in Spain and Barcelona

For Christians Catholics, Christmas is a holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus. However, Christmas also celebrates the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night. For the Romans it was the ‘Natalis Solis Invicti’, the birth of the victorious Sun. And many pagan people already celebrated this date before the arrival of Christianity. Since it is celebrated, Christmas traditions have changed, they have been exported and imported, some have been lost and others have been recovered. In addition, here we are very given to import all kinds of festive traditions and make them our own.

If you are student of Dime, it is possible that you have already lived some previous Christmas in Barcelona. If this is your first Christmas here, you’ll see that it is not very different from that of the rest of countries in which is celebrated.

During this time the city is filled with lights and Christmas decorations and you can even find an ice skating rink in Plaça Catalunya.

Furthermore, in different places of the city you will find Christmas markets that are not very different from the ones you can find in other European cities, but that are worth visiting. An example is theFira de Santa Llúcia.

There are other customs that are already traditions in our country, some are old and some are newer.

The Christmas tree

arbol de navidad

Without going further, something as traditional as the Christmas tree has been between us no much more than 100 years.

The Nativity Scene

belen

The Crib or Nativity scene is a representation of the birth of Jesus, in which there may be more or less represented elements. The main ones are: the child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, San Jose, the mule and the ox. The cribs are placed in homes, businesses, churches or public places, and there are a variety of characters and decoration that accompany the main characters. They can be made of many materials; ceramic, plastic, etc. Living Nativity scenes are also depicted in many places.

There is a character which is never missing in any Catalan Crib: El Caganer

caganer Barcelona

It is believed that this tradition dates back to the late 17TH century and depicted a peasant defecating. It seems that this meant to fertilize the land and therefore was a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Consequently, to put this figurine brought good luck. Currently, most of the caganers are representations of celebrities, from Messi to Barack Obama and they are so popular that are exported to other places outside Catalonia. Luckily you cannot see them in living Nativity scenes.

caganers Barcelona

Nevertheless, what really excites the children (and adults) about Christmas, are gifts. Different characters are in charge of bringing them. The most international of all of them is Papá Noel or Santa Claus, whose most popular image we owe to a 1931 famous brand of cola advertisement. But here Santa Claus is overshadowed (at the moment) by the Christmas superstars: Los Reyes Magos (The three Wise Men). The three Wise Men from the East are responsible for bringing gifts the night of January 5. It is the day most awaited by all children, and parades are organized in all cities.

three kings

Nonetheless, Santa Claus and the Kings aren’t the only ones who bring gifts to Catalan boys and girls. There is a mythological character named the Tió de Nadal (Christmas log).

 

tio de nadal

At first the Tió was a log that burned in the fire of the household. That log gave heat to the inhabitants of the House and offered gifts, which at the beginning were sweets and nougat, and today offers another kind of more sophisticated gifts. “However, we must differentiate the tradition of the Tió from other customs and Christmas important figures. The Tió has never been a machine to bring gifts. The Tió makes shit, according to the custom of every home, on Christmas Eve after the midnight mass, or the day of Christmas.

Unlike other customs and characters, from cultures of other countries, of which we know only the most superficial way (Christmas tree, Santa Claus, etc), the Tió has retained a traditional ritual. It is a domestic or small community (school, friends) ceremony, which consists of singing one or more songs to finally finish hitting the log with force.” (1)

So like the Caganer, the Tió is also another shitty which is forced to defecate gifts while you sing beautiful songs. At the beginning its face was painted with charcoal, but with the passage of time and its commercialization you can now buy Tios made in China.

It is also possible to find the tradition of the Tió in other regions, in Occitania, under the name Cachafuòc or Soc de Nadal, and in Aragon as Tronca de Nadal or Toza.

On the other hand, if you spend Christmas in Navarre or the Basque country, will be the Olentzero who will bring you the gifts.  It’s a mythological coal-burner that seems to be previous to Christianization, and should therefore be placed on the celebrations of the winter solstice.

Another mythological coalman called O Apalpador or Pandigueiro, brings gifts to the children of Galicia and also touches their bellies to find out if they have eaten well during the year.

If you find yourself in Cantabria, it will be another lumberjack, the Esteru, the responsible for bringing you presents:
esteru

And in Asturias it will not be a lumberjack but the Angulero, a fisherman:
cantabria

All these mythological characters have survive the passage of time, and some of them have even been recovered from oblivion. It seems that despite everything, we like the nearby, the local, our traditions, instead of what comes imposed by a globalizing culture in which marketing and consumerism have priority .This is only a small sample of some of our Christmas traditions. If you are interested in the topic, there are many more traditions to discover.

Bibliography

http://www20.gencat.cat/portal/site/msi-dgac/menuitem.cfb4d0ec869dcac3934fec60b0c0e1a0/?vgnextoid=596c740088f4c210VgnVCM1000008d0c1e0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=596c740088f4c210VgnVCM1000008d0c1e0aRCRD&newLang=es_ES http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81rbol_de_Navidad http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belenismo http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caganer http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pap%C3%A1_Noel http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olentzero http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apalpador http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esteru Si quieres saber más sobre costumbres navideñas curiosas: http://viajar.elperiodico.com/noticias/curiosas-costumbres-navidenas http://listas.20minutos.es/lista/curiosas-tradiciones-de-navidad-178171/ http://noticias.terra.com/fotos/las_tradiciones_navidenas_curiosas_en_el_mundo http://www.planetajoy.com.ar/?Las_5_tradiciones_navidenas_mas_curiosas_del_mundo&page=ampliada&id=3782 http://sobrecuriosidades.com/2007/04/30/una-navidad-diferente/ http://www.lavanguardia.com/ocio/20120104/54243614152/cabalgatas-de-reyes-catalunya.html   – See more at: http://www.dimebarcelona.com/es/blog/sin-categoria/apuntes-sobre-algunas-tradiciones-navidenas/#sthash.kO1t5mvM.dpuf

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