The Joys Of Life, Issue 5

The holidays are upon us, and whether you’re Jewish, Christian, or somewhere in between (not like those are the two ends of the spectrum), we all have traditions that represent the core components of our families and our culture. This year, my family is bucking our traditional Christmas tree and getting a metal tree, which is sad, but also, with the Amazon burning, we might not have many trees left, so it’s best to get ahead. This week, let’s take the time to look at traditions from around the world. Specifically, the Christmas tradition from Catalonia that doesn’t get enough recognition for how undeniably fantastic it is: Caganer.

A Caganer is, according to, the number one source for Caganer related information, “a typical Christmas figure characterized by its cheeky position in the nativity scene.” A caganer is usually “a crouched man, more or less hidden, answering the call of nature outdoors. It is said that not exhibiting him brings misfortune since his feces fertilize the ground and also bring luck and happiness for the year ahead.” 

Yes, as part of the Nativity scene, people in Catalonia make dolls of people taking poops and put them alongside Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The doll is a real or fake person sitting on an invisible toilet with a pile of clay below the person’s exposed rear that looks like poo. Isn’t it fantastic? Just the entire concept! It is entirely possible that 7,522,596 people (the number of people who live in Catalonia at the time of writing) have clay piles of human excrement on their table in order to CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! It’s incredible.

If you want to buy a caganer, just go to They sell caganers of everybody: Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton; David Bowie; Freddie Mercury; Freddie Mercury with Crown; North Corea’s Flag, spelled like that; Darth Vader with black poo; Pikachu with yellow poo; the Android robot with green poo because he is green (is it a he?); Homer Simpson; Peppa Pig; the Twitter bird; Yellow Ribbon, like just a ribbon that you put in your hair but pooping; THE FRICKING SUN; and, perfect for the Christmas spirit, Santa Claus. The official caganer store in Torroella de Montgri, Spain is at 17257 Ave. Francesca Maria, and do you know what else is loosely related to the number 17257? Gene 17257 as classified by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. And what species is Gene 17257 found in? Humans (duh), chimps (also duh), Rhesus monkey (not chocolate, the genus), dog (aww), cow (I eat those), rat (yuck), frog (ribbit), and ZEBRAFISH! First of all, we share genes with the zebrafish. I DO NOT understand how I did not learn this in biology, but second of all, do you know what that means? Just like kiwi, and just like Liechtenstein, caganers are also, officially, in the big leagues.

There is much debate on how the tradition of the caganer started. We know it started around the 17th or 18th century in Catalonia, which is the part of Spain that is always like, “Give us independence!” and then the Spanish government imprisons all the leaders and says, “No.” Some say that it started when an artifact was found in, a time capsule thing called a “votive deposit” and basically there was a statue of a guy doing his business on his sword before going into battle. Which, maybe it started there, or maybe that was just something people did back then. Imagine if we did that now, with guns, spread this around! Before you use a gun, you have to take a dump on it.

So, we know kind of when it started, we don’t really know how but people have theories. People hide the caganer so kids have to find it. There’s like Jesus and Joseph and Mary and the shed and the animals and the kings and the people around them, and then somewhere, hidden in the elusive folds of the nativity scene is a man taking a poop that children have to find. And it’s all around Catalonia, and it even extends a little into Portugal, Valencia, Murcia, and Naples. In all of these places, this is a common thing.

In Barcelona, at least, they hang brown streamers in the streets to represent the fertilizing power of the caganer’s excrement. One time, the city of Barcelona didn’t have a caganer in the nativity scene and people LOST IT! The city had just passed laws preventing public urination and defecation, so they didn’t want to promote it, but everyone freaked out and they had to bring it back. Speaking of public urination and defecation, come see “Urinetown,” it’s literally going to be perfect, I promise you.

But the ridiculousness of the concept of a caganer makes me question why the traditions at Parker cannot be as insane as this. Take “The Mike and Duane Show.” Two teachers recruited a bunch of other teachers and a bunch of students to film short sketch-type things and be ridiculous and everyone loved it. (Zach, don’t fact check that, it might not have been everyone.) Since “The Mike and Duane Show” ended, the only tradition where students really get to have a fun time is the Twelve Days MX. And while that is a great time, it doesn’t really cover “fun” for the entire year. Because what are we left with? Of the big ones, there is Corinthians, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, County Fair, the Thanksgiving MX, Twelve Days, the Greek Play and Class Day. There’s no place in our community to make complete and utter fun of ourselves like there used to be during “The Mike and Duane Show.”

And because we are such a divided community at times, a yearly or monthly, moment of levity could be nice. The Back Page doesn’t cut it. Many past traditions, had a lot of negative racial connotations behind them. Of course, we shouldn’t want to promote these.

However, now that we’ve weeded out all of the “problematic” traditions, we still see new arguments popping up. New objections. And I think that the more we try to end traditions, the more harm we do to our community. Traditions are what bind us together. They are the moments of the year that we look forward to. They are a time where we can take a step back and reflect on how legitimately great each and every one of us is, from all different grade levels and all different backgrounds. The more we fight, the more we hurt. And sometimes, I’m uncertain if the traditions that connect me to the school will be there the next year. Really, the only traditions that are set in stone and haven’t changed over my time at Parker have been Class Day and Big Brother and Sisters. The Greek Play as well, I guess.

You want an example? I propose that we create “The Mike Mahany and David Fuder Show.” “The Mike and David Show.” Or “The Dan and Ruth Show.” Something fun. Something that energizes the community, unites us around the silliness inherent in life, and reminds us that we can’t take ourselves too seriously. County Fair and Twelve Days, when left in the hands of the students, could be super fun. They could be something that we, as high schoolers, look forward to. If we insert a bit of a sense of humor back into those events, they could benefit greatly. 

This is not to say that Parker doesn’t have a great sense of community. It does. It’s just that we could benefit from some jokes now and then. We don’t have to take everything so seriously. And trying to take away more community-building moments does not create a stronger community. Let’s uphold what makes us great.