Tió de Nadal
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|The Catalan / Valencian cultural domain|
Photograph of a typical contemporary Tió
The Tió de Nadal (Catalan pronunciation: [tiˈo ðə nəˈðaɫ], Western Catalan: [tiˈo ðe naˈðaɫ]; meaning in English "Christmas Log"), also known simply as Tió ("trunk" or "log", a big piece of cut wood) or Tronca ("log") and popularly called Caga tió ("shitting log"), 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 centimetres 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 (a miniature of the traditional Catalan barretina) and often a three-dimensional nose. Those accessories have been added only in recent times, altering the more traditional and rough natural appearance of a dead piece of wood.
Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), 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 at night.
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.
The tradition says that before beating the tió all the kids 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.
The tió does not drop larger objects, as those are considered to be brought by the Three Wise Men. It does leave candies, nuts and torrons. Depending on the part of Catalonia, it may also give out dried figs. When nothing is left to "shit", it drops a salt herring, a head of garlic, an onion or "urinates". What comes out of the tió is a communal rather than individual gift, shared by everyone present.
In addition to the names listed in the opening paragraph, the additional nickname Caga tió (pronounced: [ˈkaɣə tiˈo] or [ˈkaɣa tiˈo], "shitting log") derives from the many songs of Tió de Nadal that begin with this phrase, which was originally (in the context of the songs) an imperative ("shit log!"). The use of this expression as a name is not believed to be part of the ancient tradition.
Caga tió song:
shit nougats (turrón),
An alternate version goes something like this:
tió de Nadal,
log of Christmas,
After hitting it softly with a stick during the song, it is hit harder on the words Caga tió!. Then somebody puts their hand under the blanket and takes a gift. The gift is opened and then the song begins again. There are many such songs: these are just examples.