Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Crapper

The typical nativity scene is pretty familiar even to non-believers like myself. You've got the three kings on one side, some sheep and stuff on the other, a little drummer boy somewhere in the mix and the baby son of God swaddled in the middle. But has anyone seen this much loved Christmas manger figurine beaming atop their grandma's mantle place?

Unless you grew up in northern Spain, my guess is you haven't seen much of this somewhat incontinent little fellow. A fixture in typical manger scenes of Catalonia, El Caganer (in Catalan it means roughly "the Pooper") has been defecating in the background of manager scenes since at least the 17th century. His presence, origins and exact significance is a bit of mystery, but the tradition has stuck in Spain and parts of Southern France and is mostly tolerated by the Catholic Church there, less so in the United States. Caganers are so popular in Spain that their purview has gone beyond just stinking up the manger, they've entered world politics. Both President Obama and the Pope have been commemorated dropping trou and leaving behind a very special Christmas gift.

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