Welcome to the “Association of Friends of the Caganer” website!
We are an association of collectors of the “caganer” figure, a traditional character from popular Catalan culture. The association was founded in 1990 and now have more than 70 members from Spain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, United States and Japan.
We are dedicated to preserving and promoting the cultural importance of this tradition. From December 1992 we have published a semi-annual newsletter, CAGANÒFIL. It includes updates on the newest caganers, made by artisans, to be sold at the various Christmas fairs. You can also find informative studies on the caganer and newsworthy items related to the figure.The Christmas season is when we have the most activities. The most important of these are the exhibits, exclusively of caganers, which are held in different towns around Catalunya. These exhibits are very popular, attracting large numbers of visitors. This is also the season when we hold the annual members’ dinner to celebrate the person elected “Caganer of the Year“. This is awarded in recognition of one’s connection to, or dissemination or use of, the caganer image in an artistic medium.
Our website was inaugurated on 2002 at our annual dinner. More detailed information can be found in our Catalan version of the page. But don’t hesitate to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or remarks.
On the other side, if you wish to become member of our Association, please look at the form at Membership association.
Thank you for visiting our website and for your interest in the caganer! We hope you will visit us again!
Translator’s note: The word caganer literally translates to “defecator” or “shitter”. However, since the caganer character is not native to an English-speaking culture, the translation seems undignified for such a beloved tradition. Thus the name caganer will remain as is in these English texts.
These texts are excerpts from the book “El Caganer”, by Jordi Arruga and Josep Mañà. (Ed. Alta Fulla, 1992)
The caganer is one of the most characteristic and beloved figures in popular Catalan Christmas imagery. The placement of this uninhibited and controversial figure in the crèche is a counterpoint which adds a human side to the representation of the mystery of Christmas. This down-to-earth symbol makes for a marvelous synthesis which harmonizes its trascendent and supernatural message with material reality and the biological condition of our organism.
As a figure which is annually the object of continuous and creative reinterpretation, the caganer is one of the elements which personalizes and gives identity to our Christmas-inspired imagination in the midst of the profuse invasion of Anglosaxon iconoclastic tradition which surrounds us during these holidays.
The Nativity Scene:
The Nativity scene, an artificial representation of the mystery of Christmas, originally could only be found in churches and convents – following the example of Saint Francis of Asisi, who constructed a living crèche on Christmas night in the year 1223. Little by little, idea took shape in private homes. The aristocratic homes of the 18th century were the first to erect monumental crèches, visited by many local people. Later the custom extended to the villages, and its enormous popularity endured so that, even today, it remainsone of the most vibrant elements in our popular art.
The washerwoman, the shepherd boy, the woman feeding chickens, the Magi, the caganer and other figures, along with an assortment of fowl, cork houses and silver-paper rivers, placed on bits of moss and cork in a corner of the dining room, give the illusion of a happy world and add a bit of nature to our homes.
We can define the caganer as an element of popular imagery which represents an individual, squatting with buttocks exposed, satisfying his physiological needs in the open air. The best-known version of this personality is, without a doubt, the genuine and unique figure that is found forming a part of our homemade Nativity scenes. He also has been called “the shitter”, “the defecating man”, or “the man doing his duty”. He is sometimes accompanied by a pig which has eagerly sniffed out the perpetrator. The caganer is traditionally placed under a bridge, behind a haystack, or otherwise discretely hidden, since it would show a lack of respect if this figure were situated in the landscape where he would be visible from the crib of the Nativity or to those who come to adore the Christchild. It is customary for children, when contemplating the scene, to ask, “Where is the caganer?”, then entertain themselves by looking for him.
The caganer does not appear exclusively in Nativity scenes, but also in other popular imagery. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, with a preponderance of craftsmen’s unions, we find our caganer appearing as a motif among typical tiles depicting various trades. There are also 19th century ballads in Spanish and Catalan which make mention of the caganer and the action he performs.
It is possible that the caganer was first incorporated into the Nativity scene during the Barroque period – at the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th centuries. This was a time characterized by extreme realism, above all in still-lifes and local liturature, all of which relied heavily on descriptions of local life and customs. Here, working conditions and homelife were used as artistic themes. In this manner, aspects of actual daily life which previously went unappreciated, acquired a more dignified standing.
Within the momentum of Barroque and the realistic themes of written works, the caganer takes on all of his significance, crude, ironic and scatologic all at once, representing the human condition and its obligations to nature. It is a figure which is very identifiable with and appropriate to the rural environment of his origins.
The traditional caganer figure depicts a squatting farmer topped with a barretina, the traditional Catalan cap. He often smokes a cigarrette or pipe as he answers nature’s call. Sometimes his props include an open newspaper, reading to pass the time while completing his task, which will later be put to use in “cleaning up”. In reference to the feminine variation of this popular figure we must mention that 30 years ago or so, these caganera figures also began to be produced. These were first created by Lluís Vidal, a well-known figure-making craftsman in Barcelona. These first caganeras coincided with the time when miniskirts made their appearance on the streets. Among these more personalized types there are also figures dressed in traditional Hebrew apparel.
Each year some craftsmen create unusual caganers in the forms of novelties or caricatures, provoked by some particular current event or just to satisfy collectors. Among these unique models we can include caganers dressed in the colors of the local Barça or Espanyol football teams, the “Olympic caganer”, by Godia at Christmas 1986, the year Barcelona received its nomination as an Olympic city, and the caganer paying homatge to the pilgrims of the “Camino de Santiago” (Santiago Trail in Galicia), presented in 1999 by Anna Mª Pla in recgognition of an anniversary of the route.
As with the “giants” which embellish processions during local festivals, some villages and towns have their own caganer figures which represent a special characteristic of the area. The towns of Ripoll, Bagà, Centelles and Anglès are examples of this.
Although Catalunya is where the caganer is the most popular and established and has the most tradition, by no means is it exclusive to this area. We have also found them in créches in Múrcia (Spain), Portugal, Naples (Italy),to name a few other locations. They go by the names “cagones”, “cagöes” and “cacone”, or more simply, “the pooping shepherd”.