As throughout Europe, Christmas is one of the most important celebrations of the year in Barcelona, although the Catalan´s have certainly added their own unusual twists. Eating, drinking and giving presents are essential ingredients to the season, though one difference from many other countries is that gifts are exchanged on the evening of 5th January (Three King´s Day) rather than on Christmas Day itself.
Although he is increasingly creeping into the Spanish mentality, Santa Claus is not really a significant figure here, and instead children are far more excited about their own traditional gift-bringer, the caga tió. This smiling wooded log wearing a red peasant’s beret should be looked after from 8th January until Christmas Eve, and the long suffering fellow is beaten with a stick and sung rude songs encouraging him to – literally - ´poo´ out some presents. Sticking to the theme, no Catalan nativity scene is complete with the addition of the caganer, an extra figure who should be discreetly placed somewhere for children to spot.Whilst the sight of a squatting peasant with his trousers round his ankles hovering over a perfectly coiled turd may seem a little incongruous next to the Virgin Mary, it is considered entirely normal, and many variations are now produced, George Bush often being a favourite.
The Fira de Santa Lucia is a huge Christmas market held every year in front of the Gothic cathedral, selling the above characters plus trees, decorations, nativity scenes and more. The life size nativity scene that is put up every year in Plaza Sant Jaume is always a firm favourite with children. Exactly what should be eaten on Christmas Day is less fixed than other countries, it just tends to be plentiful!Some restaurants will be open, but it is a good idea to book in advance.
One final Christmas tradition is El Gordo, (´The Fat One´) the biggest lottery in the world, drawn on 22nd December. Tickets cost over 200€ but are split up into decimos (tenths) to be shared between, friends, families and whole communities. The prize money can reach 2 billion euros so it might just be worth it!