I just spent Christmas in the Catalan region of Spain where I kept seeing this weird log with a face everywhere. I asked someone about it and found out the log's name was El Tió. El Tió or Caga Tió, the wholesome Catalan Santa alternative, literally meaning ''shitting log'', started out back in the days when people were so broke-ass poor that they couldn't afford to give their kids presents, so they'd tell them that the true Christmas gift is the heat from the fire provided by logs of wood. "See kids, it's not that bad, at least we aren't totally freezing." Kind of like in Angela's Ashes when they eat a sheep head for Christmas, I can envision it. Over time this little log got personified, the little poor children grew attached to him, and he evolved to have a stupid looking face, a traditional Catalan hat, little wooden legs, and a blanket to keep him warm. Makes sense. Then naturally of course, since El Tio has a face he would obviously get hungry, and logically, if he eats, then he's gotta shit at some point, right? Genius! El Caga Tió as he is known today, was born. Parents cover him with a little blanket, and hide presents underneath, the kids prance about and smack him with a stick and chant:
Tió, Tió, caga turró, Dávellanes i pinyó!
Si no cagues turró,
Et donaré un cop de bastó, Tió!
Log, Log, shit turron , Made of hazel and pine nuts!
If you don ́t shit turron,
We ́ll smack you with a club!
*Turron is a sweet desserty thing.
Then they lift off the blanket and presents appear, fresh from the log's anus, I guess. El Tió presents used to be mostly small and usually sweets. Bigger presents were saved for Reyes, The Three Kings, after the New Year. Unfortunately, Santa is high competition for El Tió because it's on the same day. More and more, El Tió is losing out to Santa, and with that, Reyes is also being phased out. Thanks America once again for being a huge asshole. Santa's so serious, and Christmas is already lame enough, why don't we just go with this shitting log thing? Plus El Tió is just way more believable. One over-weight man, delivering presents to the whole World (minus anyone poor of course), stuffing himself down everyone's chimneys and eating all their fucking milk and cookies? Please. On the other hand, everyone gets their own Tió, you can even make it yourself and the whole process is just way more, um, scientific.
Despite how awesome this log may be, the media is mighty and Santa is winning out. Luckily Catalanes, being very nationalistic, are taking measures to preserve their culture. In Vic, Catalunya, a new story has been invented about the origins of El Tió to perk the interest school children. The new story goes that El Tió was born because this guy called El Busca Tión (The Log Finder) walked around the forest smacking trees with a little stick, thereby awakening the Tiós and distributing them to all the schools with his cousin. Okay fine, maybe it's not the best story, but at least it's a step in the fight against Santa Claus. Rambunctious Catalan nationalists apparently have a new hobby of going around and burning stray Santas, which to be honest, also sounds like a great way to spend the holidays.
Words and Photos: Toby Pikelin