All countries are proud of their quirky traditions and this is no more evident than at Christmas.
In South Africa they eat deep-fried caterpillars, in Germany they hide pickles in the Christmas tree and in Norway they put away the brooms in case they are stolen by witches or evil spirits.
But what is a typical Christmas like in Catalonia and the UK and how are they different?
We think you’ll all agree, food is one of the most important things, when it comes to Christmas! It’s the one time of the year when we can be as greedy as we want without feeling too guilty about it. Afterall, we all promise to start a diet in the new year anyway.
We thought we should start with Christmas dinner, perhaps the most important meal of the year. For people in Catalonia this usually consists of a large bowl of soup (escudella) made with a tasty broth, full of a shell-shaped pasta known as galets and often with meatballs (pilota).The rest of the meat used in the broth (carn d’olla) is then served aftewards along with the veggies.
In Britain you are most likely to have roast turkey served with all the trimmings. This includes roast potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, pigs in blankets and cranberry and bread sauce. Usually people buy the biggest one they can find and you end up eating turkey sandwiches for the rest of the year.
Christmas lunch wouldn’t be complete without something sweet. In Catalonia and the rest of Spain, Turrón is usually the dessert of choice. This can come in many forms but the most popular is the soft turrón de Jijona (made with a paste of mashed almonds and honey) or the hard turrón de Alicante (made with whole almonds and egg whites cooked until solid). Another favourite at this time of year are polvorones, a type of Spanish shortbread also made with almonds.
The British alternative is slightly on the boozier side. Christmas pudding or pud is made of dried fruit, suet, spices and lots of alcohol (usually brandy). It’s often set on fire before eating and sometimes a coin is hidden inside which is said to bring luck for the lucky person who finds it. Dried fruit is certainly popular as mince pies are also consumed in large quantities throughout December.
One of Catalonia’s most iconic Christmas symbols has to be the adorable Caga Tió which roughly translates to the pooping log in English. In the run up to Christmas the children in the family feed Tió with tangerines and turrón and cover him with a blanket so he doesn’t get cold. The idea is, the more they feed him, the more presents he’ll poop out.
On Christmas eve the children sing a song to Caga Tió and beat him with a stick to help him get over the stage fright (it’s never easy to go to toilet in front of others). If they’ve been good, there will be presents under blanket. But if they’ve been bad, they’ll be left with a lump of coal!
Many non-locals often hear the word tió and think it means uncle (which is easily confused as uncle is tío in Spanish). Although there’s nothing quite as fun as the Caga Tió in the UK, Christmas wouldn’t quite be the same without a drunk uncle!
There’s one in almost every house – you’ll spot them asleep on the sofa still wearing their hats from their Christmas crackers. While it’s not really a tradition, it’s certainly very common and I’m sure many wouldn’t mind beating him with a stick, too, when his snoring drowns out the Queen’s speech or Home Alone 2.
Poop seems to be popular in Catalonia around this time of year. Let us introduce you to el caganer AKA the crapping man. These delightful figurines are placed in the nativity scenes which are very common in Spain at Christmas. They are usually hidden away in the corner or behind a tree and are said to be a symbol of fertility and good fortune with the poop of the boy being used as fertilizer to help with the harvest. These days most Catalan households have one and they come in all varieties from Leo Messi to Barack Obama.
Again, British traditions are quite tame in comparison but one popular UK company did cause quite a stir with its interpretation of the nativity. Greggs, a chain of bakeries, swapped the baby Jesus for a sausage roll in one of its promotional images for an advent calendar they were selling. Greggs soon apologised but many church groups were upset that they’d used the birth of baby Jesus for commercial gains.
We’d love to hear about your family’s Christmas traditions. Let us know in the comments!
Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.
broom (n): a long-handled brush used for sweeping.
greedy (adj): having an excessive desire or appetite for food.
broth (n): soup consisting of meat or vegetables cooked in stock.
veggies (n): short for vegetables (informal).
all the trimmings (n): refers to all the extra things that comes with something (usually food).
pigs in blankets (n): small sausages wrapped in bacon and cooked with the turkey.
boozy (n): with a lot of alcohol.
stage fright (n): nervousness before or during an appearance before an audience.
AKA (abb): also known as.
cause a stir (exp: to cause trouble or excitementy.
n = noun
exp = expression
adj = adjective
abb = abbreviation