Barcelona Christmas



Excactly a year ago,  I was in Barcelona filming DAPHNE Diaries for Lifestyle Network. You can watch some of the videos here.

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities for the simple reasons that it is so walkable and things are on a human scale. You won’t see massive architecture – well, except for the La Sagrada Familia. The city is multilayered – you see great architecture from different periods. And the food is not expensive and very accessible.

I had the most significant December 8th last year. It may have been coincidental that we were at the Our Lady of Montserrat Monastery exactly on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I must have been really meant to be there.

But this story is about Christmas in Barcelona. We were lucky that when we were there, they had Christmas markets in the city. Our guide told us that the seasonal night markets only took place for a few days in December – around this time! I particularly liked the one just out side La Sagrada Familia. It had pretty clay sculpted miniatures.



Our hotel was just off of La Rambla.


It’s a must for every tourist. So yes there are a lot of souvenir stalls if you’re into that. I just liked walking up and down it.


This is how the Catalans do Christmas nativity scenes. This was set up in the square outside the town hall. It had a rustic Roman theme.


The little diorama had elements of rustic life when the Catalan region was still part of the Roman empire  — farming, traveling by boat and donkey, details of a Roman home. There is Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus by the waterfront. It isn’t your typical Holy Night scene.


There’s an aqueduct. And look further. There’s a figure of a man who appears to be squatting.


He is what is known as a Caganer – a figure of a defacating person. This has been part of Catalan tradition for two centuries now. Nowadays, Caganers come in all forms – Sponge Bob, Queen Elizabeth, David Beckham. I had to get one for myself! In Catalan culture, kids take turns looking for the hidden caganer.


Just outside La Sagrada Familia, there happened to be a lovely Christmas night market.


It was very rustic and crafty. There were no commercial products, no brands, no fakes from China. They had artisans and farmers from the region selling traditional Catalan Christmas goodies.


Pine trees


It is also part of their tradition to give pine bouquets as gifts.


Our guide Fabio gave me a pine bouquet.


These are Christmas logs known as Caga Tios. And just like the caganer, the cage tios also defacate. When the tail end of the log opens, out flows lots of candies for children.


She is the artisan who made the miniature Catalan nativity (belen) that I bought. Top row shows traditional caganer in the white shirt and red hat, and beside it are soccer players in caganer form.


Each little diorama element is made of terracotta clay. You can customize your nativity scene. All are inspired by a Roman village.


More figurines for the nativity scene.


PC091622More contemporary caganer doing the poopie act. These caganers are placed in the nativity scene, usually behind the cottage where baby Jesus was born. Never in front, that would be disrespectful. Usually kids make it a game to find the caganer every day.


Cartoon caganers. I found out that all this fascination with pooping is really part of Catalan tradition. It is believed that defacation is the greatest equalizer. It is something everybody does whether rich or poor.


The holy family in miniature.


My growing collection of Christmas nativity. I bought a the smallest sets.


And just to give you an idea of how small my lovely nativity scene is.


My gift to self – Antoni Gaudi as a caganer.


Mr Gaudi and his La Sagrada Familia


I’m not a fan of souvenirs. But I had to make an exception for these caganers because they tell such an interesting story of Catalan culture. And how adorable is the Sagrada Familia in clay pottery?!



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