Monday, December 2, 2013

2- Tió de Nadal

What's the weirdest thing you've ever done with a log?  Leaned off of one to take a dump in the woods?  Chop it up into a phallic symbol?  Dress it up like a human and beg it to poop out Christmas Magic?  Believe it or not, dressing it up like an adorable little guy who can't hold his own fecal matter is a super ultra rad Christmas tradition in some part of Europe.

The Principality of Catalonia, or Catalan, is a historic territory in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula, mostly in Spain and with an adjoining portion in southern France.  This place is culturally insane.  A tradition of weird pop culture runs so deeply in their roots that they have a very very very unique set of folklore and mythology.  For example, Home dels nassos.  Translated as "Man of the noses," the legend says that on New Year's Eve, this man walks the streets and has as many noses on his face as days the year has. In this way, children of Catalonia are led to believe that there is a man with 365 noses, but of course, being the last day of the year, he conveniently and ironically has only one, the rest have been already lost.

Super weird, but their weirdness only begins at New Years.  Christmas has its own set of trippy mythology.  Chances are that you've heard of the European tradition of the Yule Log.  There are a ton of variations to the tradition but generally a yule log is a large and very hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations.  The expression yule log has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as chocolate logs or bûche de Noël (and they are mega tasty!)  There's also a humorously named variation of yule loggery involving nine branches rather one mighty log called Ashen Faggots.  But hold onto your hats because where we're about to go is super more weird than burning wood.

In the good old land of the Catalan, they have a variation of the yule log tradition called Tió de Nadal. also sometimes known simply as Tió and popularly called Caga tió, or in English, the "shitting log."  Seriously.  This thing is freaking weird.  He is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia. A similar tradition exists in other places such as the Cachafuòc or Soc de Nadal in Occitania, or the Tizón de Nadal or Tronca de Nabidá in Aragon, regions with a common history.

The form of the Tió de Nadal found in many Catalan homes during the holiday season is a hollow log of about thirty centimeters length. Recently, the tió has come to stand up on two or four little stick legs with a broad smiling face painted on the higher of the two ends, enhanced by a little red sock hat and often a button nose poking out. Those accessories have been added only in recent times, altering the more traditional and rough natural appearance of a dead piece of wood.  So yeah.  They dress up a log like a little man.

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which is, duh, December 8... it makes sense to celebrate conception of a birth less than 20 days later, right?), one gives the tió a little bit to "eat" every night and usually covers him with a little blanket so that he will not be cold. The food is usually just grass or something.  Over time the stuff rots or just gets taken away, and thus it appears to innocent little idiots that he is gobbling it up over time.

On Christmas day or, depending on the particular household, on Christmas Eve, one puts the tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to defecate; the fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace. To make it defecate one beats the tió with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal.  Supposedly the rotted and crumbly inner parts of the log then come tumbling out the back and TA DA!  He has pooped!  A Christmas miracle!!!

There's also some weird Santa-esque ties. Before beating the tió all the kids sometimes have to leave the room and go to another place of the house to pray asking for the tió to deliver a lot of presents. This makes the perfect excuse for the relatives to do the trick and put the presents under the blanket while the kids are praying.  What comes out of the tió is a communal rather than individual gift, shared by everyone present.  

And what is the awesome carol you sing as he does his bizz?  Check it out:

"Shit log, shit nougats, hazelnuts and cottage cheese! If you don't shit well, I'll hit you with a stick, shit log!"

And that's the Shit Log for ya.  Weird. 

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