Broadly speaking, human cultures can be divided into two groups: those that think poop is funny, and those that don’t. Brown humor cultures are apparently normal until the skid marks show through, and then everyone has a good laugh. People from brown humor cultures find it hard to understand that not everyone in the world agrees that chunky farts are the pinnacle of hilarity.
Catalonia is a land of proud brown humor tradition, a place where folks really value shit as part of their roots, to the point of incorporating it in a festivity as important as Christmas. To start, Catalan children don’t get their gifts from Santa but from a “caga tió”, a log that shits gifts (beat that, Blammo!). The little savages beat a pinewood log with sticks and chant:
shit turrón, hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
And then the blanket is pulled from the back end of the log to reveal the treasured depositions. Pretty pagan for roamin’ catch-a-licks, what? Danged druid tradition… they got it so Santa Claus doesn’t dare show his fat belly cause he’s afraid the kids will literally pound the crap out of him.
But wait, it gets stinkier! Enter the strong tradition of building pessebres or nativity scenes, where the Catalan touch is unmistakeable: down to earth and taking care of business first, as usual. The caganer was originally one of the shepherds wearing the typical Catalan barretina manumission cap, but over time it has become a global piece of Catalan shit kitsch, a projection of brown humor from Catalonia to the world.
If hitting a log with a stick seems pagan, putting a shitting shepherd in a nativity scene is more than just a way of ruffling a few frocks in the church, it is a way of reminding us that we are just humans that are bound by the laws of nature even at the most momentous of occasions. This is very much in line with the generally irreverent Catalan worldview which is not big on fancy pants or inflated egos, which is why the caganer tradition has exploded into a small universe of real and fictional squatting celebrities in the act of defecation most graphic.
Caganers are more than just naughty little figurines, they depict how Catalans see the world around them. So much for appearances; you can put on all the pomp and circumstance you want, but you will be known for what you are at your moment of most innermost truth: just another squatter pushing one out. Merry Xmas and Happy Bowel Movement, poopy.
Let a Limey explain it: