In Barcelona at Christmastime, you can find plenty of Nativity scenes, with shepherds, magi, baby Jesus, and the like. But you can also find one uniquely Catalan character hidden in the background—or squatting, with his pants down, the caganer, or "the defecator" (though our sources tell us the term is a little more crass than that). "It's typical of Catalonia. Each house buys one for Christmas," explains one man with a smile and a shrug as he shops. "I don't know why (we do it), it's just a tradition."
The caganer has been a part of Catalan Christmases for at least two centuries, and is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, reports the BBC. "There was the legend that if a countryside man did not put a caganer in the nativity scene, he would have a very bad year collecting vegetables," explains a caganer connoisseur. Though he's typically a peasant, these days the caganer can take on the form of celebrities, politicians, and athletes, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II a firm favorite.