A Spanish Addition to the Nativity

20/12/2012 10:19 GMT | Updated 17/02/2013 10:12 GMT

It's Christmas time and even in Madrid all the Christmas lights are finally shining. One thing I have noticed at the various Spanish Christmas dinners I have been to in these few weeks is the presence of the Nativity in all houses. "El Belén" (Bethlehem) is common in all homes, of any size, personalized or not with extremely elaborate details. Walking about Madrid you can find all sorts of different markets, nothing in comparison to the German ones with mulled wine and pretzels, but even in Spain, there are some curiosities.

The one that caught my eye is "el Cagador" or for you non-Spanish speakers, 'The crapper', which seems to be part of many nativities here in Spain. Now, it took me a while to finally find out what exactly the role of this character was, due to the fact that it is not a typical 'tradición madrileña", however after a few chats here and there I found some information.


Apparently, the "Cagador" has been a member of the "Belén" since at least the 18th Century, but mostly in Catalonia. Although it is never placed close to the baby Jesus out of respect, it is often visible in the corners of the nativity. The description isn't easy but this little man is usually a peasant, squatting, pants down and taking a healthy "caca". The explanations for this funny addition seem to vary. Children find it extremely humorous and appreciate its presence. One of the more established reasons is that the "Cagador" is fertilizing the earth. When it was placed in the nativity it would bring prosperity and ensure the land would be fertile all year round. If it were not placed, it would lead to adversity. It was also believed to bring good health and calm to the body and soul, resulting in general luck. Other minor explanations that were told to me by the madrileños go from it representing equality of all people; regardless of race, gender and status, every person must defecate, to the fact that God will manifest himself at any given time, without us humans being always ready.

The traditional "Cagador" is a peasant man or woman, wearing a hat called a "barretina" or a hair net but in recent years this tradition has developed to portray politicians such as Sarkozy and Obama, athletes such as the Barcelona football players, celebrities, whether Spanish or international, and even the British royal family. So if you feel like adding a humoristic touch to your Christmas nativity, look no further than the Spanish Christmas markets, from Plaza Mayor to the Royal Palace, you will find a Cagador in every stall!