November 28, 2008

Introducing El Caganer

Readers of The Pocket Guide to Mischief are already acquainted with the Spanish character of El Caganer (“the great pooper”). Statues of him evacuating his bowels are a common sight in Catalonia, where the traditional figurine of El Caganer is the Catalan peasant pictured below.
While this may seem odd, in northeastern Spain, these figurines date back to the 1600s and are considered symbols of good health. Hey, it's a culture without prissy scatalogical hangups! Before dining, Catalans sometimes say, “Menjar bé, i caga fort, i no tinguess por de la mort!” (“Eat well, poop strong, and you will have no fear of death!”)

According to Der Spiegel, in the Christmas season, Catalan kids “play a Where's-Waldo-like game that involves searching for the caganer, who is hidden somewhere in the Nativity arrangement.” As a symbol of respect, the pooper is usually located at some distance from the manger’s holier occupants.

If you’re interested, this website offers 150 different El Caganer figurines, all of them assuming the position. The current U.S. president is the company's second-bestselling item, but other political leaders are also available, for instance, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. (See also the Friends of El Caganer.)

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