Do you have a Caganer? What do you mean, what's a Caganer?

He's been seen doing "number two" around nativity scenes across Catalonia, in Spain, since the 18th century. Caganer (pronounced cah-gah-NAIR) translates as "the little pooper" and is no nincompoop. In fact, he's a very big deal in the Catalan culture.

In Catalonia, the figurine is depicted in the act of doing doo-doo around Nativity scenes. He's seen wearing the traditional Catalan red cap (the barretina) and with his trousers down, showing his bare backside, and defecating. Now before you dump on the little peasant, I want you to get the full load on this.

His pooping around the Nativity scene is considered "an essential feature" because he's fertilizing the earth. People believed the fertile ground brought good luck for the year and not doing so would bring adversity.

So, in an area that's predominantly Roman Catholic, what does the church think? It's tolerated only within the area where the Caganer is popular.

Back in 2005, the Barcelona City Council provoked public protestations and outbursts commissioning a Nativity scene which did not include a Caganer. The flare-up Save the Caganer campaign received so much widespread media coverage that the 2006 Nativity scene had restored the squatting pooper on the northern side of the Nativity near a dry riverbed.

The Caganer isn't the only defecating character in the Catalan Christmas tradition. Another is the Tio de Nadal, but his story, that I won't get into here, turns droppings into candy. That's helped create the Catalan saying, "Eat well, discharge heartily, and don't be afraid of death!"

Do you want one? Caganers are easiest to find before Christmas in holiday markets, like the one in front of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia. The Catalans have modified this tradition a good deal in the last 50 years. In addition to the traditional holy pooper design, you can also choose your favorite politician, sports figure, movie star or other celebrity.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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