El Caganer

Catalan Nativity Scene
Has One S(tin)neaky Twist

It’s a two-century tradition. Pretty much all famous people, celebrities, politicians and artists have their own little squatting clay statues known as the “caganer” in Spain. Christmas, since it’s a high season for well, everything, is one of the biggest selling times for this very twisty and humorous local creation.
President Obama has one. Michael Jackson had one. The Pope and Superman have theirs, which may or may not explain some recent derogatory “feet of clay” claims against one, and serious bone breaking associated with the other. Justin Bieber should have one too. Hey, even the Queen of England and her family each has their own. No comment.
The caganer, which one blushed American tourist euphemistically described as “a person doing the #2 outdoors,” right before cursing like a sailor for not being able to pronounce the word properly, is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, a guarantee for a plentiful vegetable crop for those who keep them at home. And make sure to include them in their nativity scene at this time of the year.
For Spanish children, Christmas day has an added attraction, besides the excitement of opening up gifts: finding the caganer, discreetly placed behind Jesus, Mary and Joseph manger. Or on the side, watching, like the one above, still the most popular, a traditional peasant figure in his floppy red Catalan cap.
But isn’t placing a caganer in the crib disrespectful – however far he squats? “Not at all,” said another tourist, offering her own twisty theory about it: “It was the only thing the little shepherd boy had to give the Baby Jesus. So it’s a great gift.”

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