27.12.15

Crap for Christmas

There is something about traditions that reaffirm human frailties. While Santa Claus is all about joy and gifts, the custom is about feeding a fairytale. That it has stood the test of time speaks for our innate need to suspend disbelief.


Would we then be able to nurse customs that are real, perhaps too close to reality? Since the beginning of the 19th century in the Spanish regions and parts of France they have been doing just that.

This Christmas custom dates back to the 1800s and is meant to remind us of the humanity we all share with the Christ child. The defecating figurines are also said to represent fertilization and bring good luck for the new year. Traditionally, the caganer was depicted as a peasant, wearing the traditional Catalan red cap (called a "barretina") and with his trousers down, revealing a bare backside and a pile of feces below.

Statuettes of pop icons, royals, politicians, religious figures are gifted and placed near the nativity scenes..

I find it interesting that while in the social space we are ready to talk about sex (albeit by either intellectualising it or flaunting it as edgy freedom), discussing defecation isn't something we might deem polite. Such jokes too are referred to as toilet humour. However, nobody has objected to the depiction of the famous with their pants down, but there might have been some outrage had there been depiction of more intimate activity.

Fertility is meaningless unless there is cohabitation. Perhaps faeces represent the soil, but the fount from where they've sprung does not engage in reproduction. As for bringing good luck, would it depend upon factors of the contents? Is digestion itself a mark of glad tidings or even a karmic statement — as you sow, so shall you reap?


For one not acquainted with this tradition, seeing the statuettes conveys only the vulnerability and human qualities of the celebrity. Of course, in the case of pop stars from different fields, this won't be necessary for they are quite prone to other open gestures. It is another matter that these do not quite humanise them; rather, they transform a human behaviour into a socio-political message.

The caganers seem to all have similar turd. It is such uniformity in traditions that apparently joins people, but only superficially. I also wonder whether these societies would be accepting of statuettes of themselves crapping. It is unlikely. Humanising symbolism that uses icons ultimately dehumanises them, and makes a normal everyday routine a matter of alienated custom. 

3 comments:

  1. Hi Farzana,

    Seasoned Greetings! (from under a blanket of snow)

    >>There is something about traditions that reaffirm human frailties. While Santa Claus is all about joy and gifts, the custom is about feeding a fairytale. That it has stood the test of time speaks for our innate need to suspend disbelief.<<

    There is that, too. And yet, while it may stretch the limits of credulity (and requisite for inclusion in the conversation, as you further note below), its part in the "grand programme of Providence," as it were, is fairly foundational. Perhaps the Spanish government -- or Church -- or whomever it was that decided on provincial Nativity-scene matters back then, in allowing its discrete inclusion (perhaps in the hope few would notice or hardly dare comment), chose the better part of valor? And indeed, the caganer custom would appear to have been fairly obscure (until now).

    >>I find it interesting that while in the social space we are ready to talk about sex (albeit by either intellectualising it or flaunting it as edgy freedom), discussing defecation isn't something we might deem polite. Such jokes too are referred to as toilet humour. However, nobody has objected to the depiction of the famous with their pants down, but there might have been some outrage had there been depiction of more intimate activity.<<

    It is interesting. But I don't know if discussions about sex are any less culturally driven than discussions about the act or end product of defecation. Both processes are natural to all cultures, certainly; its the where, when, how and with whom culture presumes to regulate.

    Mark

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  2. FV
    LOL, good one!
    Celebs including Santa with their pants down in their vulnerable state make them sub-human because they build their personas as supernaturals in super human garbs.
    While common humans remain humans even with their pants down in their vulnerability.
    So celebs are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to do the most normal human routines.
    After all being famous is not all that bed of roses.
    Hahaha
    Circle

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  3. Mark:

    Perhaps the "grand programme of Providence" has transmogrified into the grand programme of Profiteering.

    Yes, cultural depictions and debates on them are time/place oriented.

    {Seasoned Greetings! (from under a blanket of snow)}

    Seasoned? I reckon garnished, too! Warm wishes to you as well.

    Circle:

    {After all being famous is not all that bed of roses.}

    Or a water closet, it would seem!

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