Santa Lucia Christmas Market
Santa Lucía Christmas Market, Barcelona’s most traditional market, and one of the oldest Christmas markets in Spain is located in front of the cathedral, in the heart of the Gothic quarter. It opens its doors from the end of November to December 23rd and houses more than 200 craft stalls selling Christmas items: figurines, nativity scenes, garlands, illuminations and fir trees, but also some typical Catalan curiosities…
Now the offer is more diversified, but the most numerous stalls are those selling figurines and nativity scenes as well as sophisticated landscape elements: houses, trees and decorations that allow the construction of the famous Mediterranean nativity scenes which can occupy an area of several square meters.
But apart from magnificent nativity scene figurines, some of which are real works of art, you can also learn more about certain peculiarities of Catalan traditions.
"Tio de Nadal" (Christmas trunk)
The "tio" is a trunk that stands up thanks to two small wooden legs, on one of its ends is a funny face painted often with a small wooden nose, and the whole thing is decked out in a typically Catalan red beret.
Its origin dates back to an ancient Christmas tradition: originally in poor homes it was a piece of wood fuelling the fireplace, and its gift was the warmth it brought to the house.
Nowadays, from December 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception, children must feed their tio every evening, then cover it with a red sheet so that it does not get cold.
On Christmas Day, or the day before, according to family tradition, he is ordered to "defecate" (literally) gifts. To help him do his duty (poop is the term used in the children’s songs), the children beat him with a stick while singing popular songs.
The "tio" does not bear big gifts, those are brought later by the three wise men. He gives small objects, usually sweets, nuts and nougat, which the parents have hidden under the blanket that covers him and which are revealed after he has been duly beaten.
The "Caganer" (literally the defecator)
In addition to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Catalan tradition add a unique character to the nativity scene: the "caganer". Away, in a discreet corner of the nativity scene, this figurine empties his bowels.
Its origin is lost in the midst of time. No one knows when and where this character first appeared. Originally, he was a peasant wearing the traditional Catalan red beret called the barretina.
Converted into a fashion, you can find stalls dedicated exclusively to the sale of "caganers" with representations of all trades and famous characters from sports, politics or movies.
Charcoal and poops
A common tradition throughout Europe is that children who have not behaved well receive charcoal instead of gifts. The origin of this tradition seems to be explained by the fact that Santa Claus, having not planned a present for this child, leaves him what he finds when going down the chimney: a piece of soot or coal.
For children, the message is clear: you have to make an effort to receive gifts the following year.
At the Christmas market you can find bags of "charcoal" containing black sweets made from sugar.
The Catalans, with quite a sense of humour, added also the caganer poops, in sugar or chocolate, perfectly imitated and often presented in a small chamber pot.
You can find these surprising gifts in many stalls.
-> More information on the Santa Lucía market website
-> Buy a "caganer" online
-> Discover Santa Lucía Christmas market during the Gothic Quarter tour