(Thanks to a new ISP, I’m back in business!)
To outsiders, there are perhaps few things stranger in Catalonia than the popular caganer figurines that have been part of that region’s nativity scenes for over three centuries. Traditionally the caganer (literally “the pooper” in Catalan) is a peasant man in a red hat and country garb, bare bummed and squatting in the act. Nativity sets in Catalonia are generally larger than we are used to in the English-speaking world; they often display whole parts of the city or countryside, not just the manger. So the squatting fellow usually does his business behind a bush and a bit away from Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
His role in the nativity set has several possible meanings. Some think that he represents fertility, since his defecation fertilizes the land. Some say he represents equality since we all have to go at some time. Many think he just gives the otherwise otherworldly scene of Jesus’ birth a hint of naturalism. Or perhaps his presence suggests that God works on His timetable—whether nature is calling someone close at hand or not. But generally I think most folks can see that the figure is meant to inject a little humor into the season, which has led to a certain change in caganers sold since the 1940s.
Yup, while the traditional red-capped peasant is still available, lots of folks these days prefer a caganer statute of a celebrity, politician, athlete, cultural icon, or even my beloved Pocoyo (who has blue poo!).