More Strange Shops

Film, Observatory

LP Hartley said, ‘The past is another country; they do things differently there.’ No, Spain is another country, and they do things very differently. Having just undermined the ruling party by splitting their Catalonia succession vote across two radically opposed parties who’ll now be forced to form a coalition government, they can get back to doing what they do best; namely running whacky Latin shops.

First up, in a Gotico backstreet, another entry in the Let’s Make A Baby Cry stakes, more terrifying dolls that look like the cannibal dolls from ‘Barbarella’, sandwiched between statues of Jesus and replica guns. Kids, your toys are watching you.

Ah, a typical Gotico bakery – except it’s a towel shop, and someone has been to a lot of effort to make their products look good enough to eat.

There was some mention a few posts back about the mysterious interloper in the nativity. This is the Caganer and can be found somewhere in the back of the manger scene. In Catalonia and Southern Italy traditional Christmas decorations sometimes consist of a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to the Nativity scenes of the English-speaking world but encompassing the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. In Catalonia, the pessebre or nativity scene is often a reproduction of a pastoral scene with farmhouse, the child in a manger, a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds walking towards the manger area with gifts, sheep etc., set on moss to represent grass, with cork used to represent mountains. Another variant is to make the setting oriental, with the wise men arriving by camel and the figures dressed accordingly.

The caganer is a popular feature of Catalan nativity scenes. It arrived in the late 17th-early 18th century, during the Baroque period, and is always taking a dump. It fertilises the earth, thus promising a buena cosecha (a good harvest) during the forthcoming year. Owning a caganer will bring good luck and prosperity.

Dozens of shops sell these things. Often you can choose modern characters for your nativity. I saw Obama, Hilary Clinton, the Barcelona football squad, Sarah Palin, The Queen, Angela Merkel and the Statue of Liberty all dropping the kids off at the pool. You may choose micturating characters as well. Some of the figurines are highly graphic. I opted for a tasteful little angel.

7 comments on “More Strange Shops”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    That “cake” shop window is amazing. Not that I’d want to eat a piece of cake that looked like that and there actually are cakes for kids with violent colors.
    That said: What an interesting follow-up article on Caganers. This is the sort of thing you don’t find in The Big Book of Christmas Traditions Around the World or only glancingly mentioned in passing, so to speak. (Your little fellow has that serious of purpose look that warns parents of a UPS delivery.) He does, however, appear to have a serious case of cloud rash.
    If you Google “caganer”, you will find many, many photos of the little creatures, including the ones you mention and some funny ones you didn’t: Papa Smurf, Darth Vader, Kate and the Prince, Elvis, etc. Who ever said the Christmas holiday wasn’t a big tent. And people collect them! And you can mail order them.
    “We never knew Aunt Betty wasn’t actually collecting limited edition Barbies. Imagine our surprise when we went to clear out her house and discovered a whole hidden room of… hundreds of caganer.” (What’s the plural?)”Our little girl was so taken by the Tinkerbell.”
    Deep Spanish anyone?

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Never say that you don’t learn anything on line. I knew of the existence of caganers(? logical Spanish plural?) but thought they were always little boys and didn’t know what they were called. Weird customs always seem to be connected somehow to fertility. Good harvests are essential.

  3. Alan G says:


  4. Alan G says:

    Then again – I could be wrong. Catalan has it’s own rules.

  5. C. Rancio says:

    Caganers is the plural in catalan. Another weird catalan christmas tradition is the cagatió: the beating of a log covered by some cloth until it “shits” gifts for the kids…

  6. glasgow1975 says:

    Love that ‘cake’ shop, it’s amazing!

  7. Vickie says:

    Another vote for the amazing “cake” shop window — very cool!

    I just don’t know if I could buy a figurine that had a steamin’ pile of poo behind it….regardless of potential good harvest, good luck and prosperity!

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