This extract is taken from Andorra Revealed, a book jam-packed with details about the country past and present. Written by Judith Wood, Ian Woolward and myself and costing 10€ from my garage, it is also available from La Puça bookshop in Andorra la Vella and online from Amazon.co.uk – paperback ￡8.99, Kindle ￡4.99.
So what’s all this about ‘Caga Tió’ (‘Poop log’)? As Christmas approaches you will see him all over the place. A small wooden log, usually with two legs in front, he lurks, covered in a blanket, with his cheery grin and barretina hat, in the corner of shop windows or on sale at Christmas street markets. The Tió started bringing nuts to Catalan-speaking children some three hundred years before Father Christmas arrived to fill their stockings.
Originally the Caga Tió was just a large log that was brought into the home on the day of the Immaculate Conception, 8th December, and slowly fed into the fire till Christmas Eve.
Later, someone painted a smiling face on the flat end of the log, put a barretina on his head (the traditional red knitted Catalan hat) and laid a blanket over his lower back to keep him ‘warm’ at night.
The children had to take great care of Tió for he was a magic log. Every night until Christmas Eve they put out water and food for him: perhaps orange peel, potatoes or turron (nougat typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, mixed with toasted almonds or other nuts). Not only would the Tió log eventually bring warmth and light to the hearth but, the more they filled him up with food the more, hopefully, he would poop nuts and sweets for them on the night of Christmas Eve.
Finally the big moment arrives. Each small child is armed with a short stick. Maybe their father will take them off to the kitchen, there to slightly ‘warm’ their sticks in the oven; basically anything to get them out of sight of Tió where the mother quickly hides chocolates, turron, neules (very fine, rolled up, cigar-shaped Christmas biscuits) and other sweets and small presents under the blanket.
Once ready, the children are called back to stand around Tió and sing to him whilst tapping him with their sticks. There are almost as many Tió songs as there are households. One goes like this:
“Caga Tió, neules i torrons, “Poop Log, neules and turrons
Si no cagues ara … If you don’t poop right now –
cop de bastó!!!. You’ll get hit with a stick.
Caga Tió!” Poop Log!”
To begin with the children tap the log quite gently but at the final “Caga Tió” they hit the log really hard and then look under the blanket to see if he has pooped sweets or small presents for them. In this video the little chap is allowed back several times! Maybe each lot of presents is from a different adult in the family?