Christmas Crappers and the New Year Nose Man

Rows of small figurines wearing red hats. They are crouching with their trousers pulled down.
A regiment of Caganers doing their duty, by Oriol Gascón i Cabestany.

The festive season in Catalonia, an area in Northeastern Spain, is characterised by several colourful characters. Two have became quite well-known because of their scatological humour, the Caganer and the Caga Tió, but there’s a third who I think is just as interesting.

The Crapper

El Caganer (“the Crapper”) is the most famous seasonal figure. He’s a little statue who’s hidden in the nativity scene, having a sneaky poo. Finding the Caganer in the scene is a traditional Christmas game. There’s a variety of explanations for why he’s there, but he’s often considered to be fertilising the soil to ensure a good crop next year. The traditional Caganer is a male Catalan peasant dressed in a white shirt, black trousers, and distinctive floppy cap, but now you can buy a wide variety of pooping celebrities. You can even get Donald Trump “doing his business”.

A photograph of a small log wearing a red hat. It has a painted face and thick felt eyebrows.
Caga Tiós on display in the Santa Llúcia Christmas market, by Greg Gladman.

The Crap Log

The Tió de Nadal (“Christmas Log”), sometimes called Caga Tió (“Crap Log”) is famous for pooping in the house at Christmas as well, but their “poo” is far more welcome. Catalan families with children will find or buy a suitable small log, decorate it with a face and a hat, and bring it into the house on 8th December. The Caga Tió is kept warm under a blanket and “fed” scraps until Christmas Day, when it’s time for them to pay back all the kindess. The kids in the family beat the log with sticks, singing a song that begins “caga, tió” (“crap, log”). Then the kids lift up the blanket and find that the Crap Log has, in fact, crapped some small presents. Sweets such as nougat are traditional, but anything small enough for parents to hide under the blanket may be produced by the log’s magical digestive system. Larger gifts are bought by the Three Wise Men, who play a similar role to Father Christmas.

A vintage black and white illustration of four children hitting a log with sticks while their parents watch.
19th century illustration of children hitting the Caga Tió (Wikimedia Commons).

The Nose Man

The third character is L’Home dels Nassos, the Man of the Noses. The Nose Man only appears on New Year’s Eve, and he’s got a very good reason for that. He has as many noses as there are days in the year, so on 1st January he’s a 365-nosed monster, and becomes less nosey throughout the year until on 31st December, he’s left with one final enormous nose. It’s the only time that he feels like he looks presentable, so he parades through the streets, handing out sweets and gifts to celebrate his big day.

A vintage black and white illustration of a man with a very large nose. A mother and her curious children watch him.
19th century illustration of L’Home dels Nassos (Wikimedia Commons).

Like finding the Caganer, finding the Home dels Nassos is a traditional festive children’s game. If they look for a man with 365 noses, they’ll have no luck on 31st December! Historically, he would appear in Barcelona, first wearing sheets to hide (and blow) all his noses. Now he makes his appearance as a capgròs, a Catalan character with a large papier maché head, in several towns, often accompanied by a band. In Barcelona, he now gives the ceremonial key to the New Year to officials, acting as a messenger of the people to remind the officials of who they serve. Maybe a similar figure, the Home de les Orelles who has as many ears as there is days in the year and may appear on 30th December, could keep an ear out for what the officials are up to for him.

It’s theorised that the Nose Man may be inspired or otherwise linked to the Roman god Janus, the two-faced god of new beginnings who has one face looking back to the past and one face looking forward to the future. The month of January is named after him.