In Catalonia – a historic territory in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula, mostly in Spain and adjoining portion in southern France – a bizarre tradition is followed. During Christmas, a large model of the city of Bethlehem is created along with the typical nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Shepherds. But tucked away in a corner of the model is a little figurine of a defecating Catalan peasant. It’s called the Caganer, which means shitter in Catalan.
It’s widely believed that the Caganer, by pooping, is fertilizing the Earth and thus promising a good harvest during the forthcoming year. Hence, it is a good omen. Another explanation is that the Caganer represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone defecates. The exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but the tradition has existed since the 17th century. Originally, the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing red stocking hat with a black band, but modern Caganers are often caricatures of famous people.
Surprisingly, the practice is tolerated by the local Catholic church.