Thursday, December 4, 2008

Relaxative Holiday Mirth

This photo isn't about the murky modern art on the wall, the way under-decorated yet over flocked tree, the pale senior citizens or even the fancy French poodle. No. This photo is ALL about the tinfoil Christmas tree with the edible decorations! This is cooking and crafts coming together in a miracle of harmony. Grandma turns her head in disbelief, grandpa chuckles at it and the poodle stares at it. That ring of sweet pickles on the top is almost like a halo. Feel the spirit, lean into it like the wind.

I know the holiday season has only started getting into full swing, but already I tire of the questionably pious with their unpalatable sanctimonious behavior and refutable "tastefullness" regarding decorating for Christmas. I often question why people bother spending their time and money collecting "just the right tasteful keepsake ornaments" from Christopher Radko, use tasteful faux snow trimmed greenery in tropical climates or otherwise try and decorate and remake the world into an imagined tasteful wonderland "for the children". (just so you know, the word keepsake sends a cold shudder right down my spine and outta my ass) And honestly, if I see another tasteful color-themed tree I shall spontaneously combust.
I am certainly no gloomy humbug, but come on people lets not take this decorating thing so seriously. Why not have a little fun with it? I have in the past created pure enchantment when decorating for the holidays, like a day-glo pink marabou tree with black rubber bows or the tree inspired by the movie "Coma" that was connected to wires horizontally from the ceiling. My favorite was a tree made from a dozen old televisions of various sizes stacked up in a pyramid shape all playing "Liquid Sky" and "HR Pufnstuf" randomly spiced together- the effect was stunning, sacred and profane all at the same time.

Holidays bring out the best (and worst) in all of us and some pretty strange customs -like the Christmas pickle- but here is a real curiosity, something that you can talk about at your next Bible study meeting or Black Mass. Some of the world's most curious Christmas traditions can be found in Catalonia, where the idea of holiday cheer seems to involve some of life's more basic bodily functions.
(S)catalonia's Fecal Christmas Festivities:
Here are two factoids that one wouldn't necessarily expect to find in the same Wikipedia entry: "the infant Jesus is God in human form" and "everyone defecates."
But if you navigate to the entry attempting an explanation of the fecal-centric Catalonian tradition known as el caganer, that is exactly what you'll find. Indeed, the tradition is a much-loved element of the Christmas celebration in Catalonia, despite its somewhat obscure beginnings.
A Caganer -- or "pooper" -- is a small figurine of a person squatting down with lowered pants (or raised skirt) to answer nature's call. They have been around since the 17th century and can often be found hiding in an obscure corner of a Nativity scene.
Some say that the figurines originally became popular among farmers who believed -- quite practically -- that the caganer's "offerings" would make the soil rich and productive for the coming year. In somewhat vaguer terms, the Web site for the Association of Friends of the Caganer -- an organization founded in 1990 to celebrate the caganer tradition and which boasts 60 members spread across the world -- states that the figures were meant to add "a human side to the representation of the mystery of Christmas."
The Wikipedia entry mentions how the caganer might represent "the equality of all people" because "everyone defecates" or it may be meant to reinforce that "the infant Jesus is God in human form."
Young children in Catalonia still play a Where's-Waldo-like game that involves searching for the caganer in the Nativity scene arrangement. According to the Friends Web site, the caganer is "placed under a bridge, behind a haystack or otherwise discretely hidden" as it "would show a lack of respect" to have him near the arrangement's manger scene.
The original el caganer is a wooden or clay figure of a peasant wearing the traditional floppy red Catalan cap with a black band (barretina) and smoking a cigarette or a pipe. But the figure's popularity has led to a massive expansion in the range of defecating figurines.
Marc Alos is part of a family that has been producing and selling such figurines since 1992 in Girona, a town 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Barcelona. The company, Terra I Mar -, offers 150 types of caganer figurines, ranging from political and sports figures to more anonymous and traditional figures, such as farmers, nuns and Santa Claus -- all of them evacuating their bowels. "People call from all over the world asking for us to make statues of their local figures," Alos says, "but there's no way we could make everyone happy."
With annual sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 figurines, Alos's company is the largest of its kind. By far the most popular figure, Alos says, is the traditional farmer figure. Second place, however, is occupied by a squatting version of outgoing US President George W. Bush.
When asked why he thought Bush's figure was so popular, Alos preferred only to say: "We always sell most the people who are either loved or hated." Based on recent sales figures, Alos adds, it would appear that US President-elect Barack Obama fits into one of those categories as well.

The other scatological element of the traditional Catalan Christmas is the Tió de Nadal, which roughly translates as "Christmas log." Also known as the Caga Tió, or "pooping log," this character is a 30-centimeter (one-foot) log hallowed out on one end. In recent times, the other end of the log has been given a smiling face, topped with a miniature version of the barretina and propped up on two stick legs.
Starting on Dec. 8, which marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception holiday in the Catholic tradition, the log is "fed" small amounts of candies, nuts, figs or torrons -- a local type of nougat -- every night and sleeps under a little blanket. On Christmas Eve or Christmas day, depending on the household, one end of the log is put in the fireplace and ordered to "poop."
To hasten and encourage the log's symbolic bowel movement, children sing special songs and beat it with sticks, yelling "caga tió!" Someone then reaches around the log and under the blanket to bring forth a gift that is then shared by the group.
Of course, if the revelers are still hungry, then can always go to their local pastry shops, which have sweets shaped like feces on offer during the holiday season.
Aren't you glad that I shared this information? Mmmmmm?

Here's a little something different to wash it down with!

Poop Deck Daddy

2 oz gold rum
1 oz sherry
1/2 tsp Cynar® artichoke liqueur
1 tsp lime juice
1 pinch brown sugar
1 tsp sugar syrup
Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into glass. Bend a Tootsie Roll on rim of glass for effect and serve.

1 comment:

Blair said...

Love the post, especially the video, Mama Cass has such a beautiful voice. And I never knew my morning dump could put me in the Christmas spirit!

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