Christmas is Coming
Christmas is coming - Catalonia traditions
I had no knowledge of a Catalan Christmas and its traditions before I moved to Sitges. I had not previously come across the 'shit log' or the Caganer. My previous festivities were in Wales - Christmas Markets and Pantomines.
On December 8 each year (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) families in Catalonia bring out the happy log and every night until Christmas Eve children are tasked with "feeding" the log by offering him nuts, dried fruit, and water. They must also cover the Christmas Log (Tió de Nadal) with a blanket to ensure he stays warm and comfortable. The log has stick legs, a smiley face, and a floppy red hat. On Christmas Eve children gather in their homes for the traditional whacking of the festive shit log. They beat him with sticks while singing the traditional Tió de Nadal song:
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
Then the miracle - look under the blanket and discover that the log has pooped out a pile of candies and presents. Burn the log to keep warm.
In Catalonia at Christmas you will also see the 'Caganer' - a little boy squatting to have a poo !
The main day for giving presents in Catalonia is on 6th January the (Epiphany) 3 Kings day. This is the most important and magical nights of the year for thousands of children in Catalonia. It is when the 'Three Kings' in bring presents. Traditionally in Catalonia, presents are not delivered by Santa Claus at Christmas but by the Three Kings who arrive in all Catalan towns. Parades are organised to welcome them. Afterwards, when the children are sleeping, they enter through the window or balcony and leave presents for every family member. Can't wait !
Christmas is coming - Wales traditions
Y NADOLIG (Christmas): The custom in many parts of Wales was to attend a very early church service known as "Plygain" (daybreak), between 3am. and 6am. Men gathered in rural churches to sing in a service that went on for three hours or so. The custom managed to survive in many country areas, and because of its simplicity and beauty is being revived in many others. After the service, a day of feasting and drinking would begin.
GWYL SAN STEFFAN (St. Stephens Day; Boxing Day - December 26th): The day after Christmas Day was celebrated in a way unique to Wales and included the tradition of "holly-beating" or "holming." Young men and boys would beat the unprotected arms of young females with holly branches until they bled. In others, it was the custom for the last person to get out of bed in the morning to be beaten with sprigs of holly.
NOS GALAN (New Years Eve): In Wales there is a custom that if the first visitor in the New Year was a woman and the male householder opened the door, that was considered bad luck. If the first man to cross the threshold in the New Year was a red haired man, that was also bad luck.
A pre-Christian custom associated with the end of the Christmas season, formerly carried out in all parts of Wales but now almost disappeared, is that of the Mari Lwyd ( Grey Mare). It can however still be seen at Llangynwyd near Maesteg every New Years Day. A horse's skull with false ears and eyes attached, along with reins and bells, covered with a white sheet and colourfully decorated with ribbons, is carried around on a pole. The Mari Lwyd is carried from door to door and poems are recited in Welsh. Those inside the house reply also in verse refusing to let the Mari Lwyd in until this battle of verse and insults (or pwnco) is won.
The most popular New Year's custom was one that was carried out in all parts of Wales: the Calennig (small gift). On January 1st from dawn until noon, groups of young boys would visit all the houses in the village carrying evergreen twigs and a cup of cold water drawn from the local well. The boys would then use the twigs to splash people with water. In return, they would receive the Calennig, usually in the form of copper coins. The custom, in various forms, survived in some areas well after World War II, at least in the form of the chanting of a small verse or two in exchange for small coins.