Tió de Nadal
The Tió de Nadal seems to bemuse foreigners as well as a good few Catalans. Starting on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Dec ember the 8th), a wood log called the Tió de Nadal is set up with legs, a smiling face, and a red hat. It is common to see his smiling face in window displays in the run up to Christmas. The Tió de Nadal is more commonly nicknamed the ‘caga tió’ (loosely translated into English as ‘poo uncle/guy’)!
In the run up to Christmas, families cover the Tió with a blanket, and feed him every night. The idea is that if the children take good care of their log he will return the kindness and eventually poo out festive presents for them.
Then on Christmas Day itself, children sit on or near their log, beat him with a stick and sing the Caga Tió song. There are many variations but the main gist of the lyrics is as follows: “Caga tió, hazelnuts and nougat / If you don’t want to poo / We will hit you with a stick”.
After singing the verses, the kids are then sent out of the room while the grownups hide presents under the Tió´s blanket and return to find out what their beaten log has gifted them.
The Caga Tió tradition is entirely unique to Catalunya and doesn´t take place in other parts of Spain.
La Festa de Sant Medir
If you were in Gràcia neighbourhood earlier this month, you may have witnessed the sight of some sixty tonnes of boiled sweets being thrown by horse riders to the excited children lining Gran de Grácia and Calle de San Salvador.
This was not a one-off event but an annual festival that takes place on March the 3rd. Also known as Barcelona’s sweet festival, more than 26 parade groups, called ‘colles’ form a procession that ends in the Gràcia gardens.
Legend has it that this parade started in 1828 when a baker named Josep Vidal i Ganés became ill and vowed to make an annual pilgrimage to Sant Medir chapel if God cured him. As luck would have it the baker was cured and to mark the day, in subsequent years would beat a drum and throw beans to announce his pilgrimage ever March the 3rd. Today, the beans have been replaced with sweets in this festival that celebrates the saint who saved the baker.
L’ou com balla
On this day, church fountains all across Barcelona are lavishly decorated with flowers, and an egg is balanced on top the stream of water, where it does its dance. The egg is a symbol of both rebirth and Holy Communion.
Strangely, no one knows how this tradition came about, but the most widely accepted start date is 1637, at the Seu, Barcelona´s Cathedral. Today, locals flock to the Seu or to other city churches to witness the egg dance.