Some 30+ people have gathered around me. They are chanting-cheering, hitting a large piece of wood in our middle with thin long sticks. It is covered in a grey blanket and slightly lifted from the ground at one end, creating a small space underneath. El Tió. The Tió brings Christmas presents to the Catalan children, who have renounced Father Christmas, Baby Jesus or Reindeer Rudolph in favour of … tree trunks.
“Tió, Tió … Caga Turró … D’avetllana i de pinyo … Si no et donarem un cop de bastó …”. The (not politically correct) translation: “Tió, Tió … Shit us Turró … Of hazelnut and pines … If not we’ll hit you with a stick.!”
“But … Even the small children already sing, ‘shit’ and ‘hit’ all the time?!” My mum, slightly incredulous at the ubiquitous use of “cagar” & “caganers” “shitting” in a Catalan Christmas. “Ah, yes”, Marc and his Catalan family proudly respond with a wink. “It’s not so strong here and after all, everybody uses it without even thinking. Just natural, don’t you think?!”
Completely natural. You must love Catalonia and all the weird and wonderful things Catalan people do, setting them apart from the rest of Spain. Have a look at this.
Besides all the Christmas frenzy, winter in Catalonia is pure heaven on Earth. Days of more than 20°C in the (seemingly endless) sunshine, beaches devoid of any tourists whatsoever, culinary delights to die for.
“Oh, what’s this?”, I exclaim, browsing through a book called The Colours of Sitges. A town located some thirty minutes drive south of Barcelona, it is famous for its “Xató” dish, a one-of-a-kind salad salsa made from almond crumbs, pepper essence, lots and lots of excellent olive oil, bread with red wine vinegar, and roasted garlic. This Xató salsa is then served on top of a bed of lettuce and mixed with black and green olives, tuna, codfish and anchovies from l’Escala, the sweet little seaside-town I’ve already told you about here. Heavenly delicious! Bon profit!
Would you go for a swim? Easily. On winter’s New Year, that is!
Places like Sitges beach or the Costa Brava’s many little coves tucked away along the coastline are perfect (and tempting) to go for a swim, even now in winter’s time. At the heat of midday, the sun may well warm up to over 20°C, and the Mediterranean Sea is not as cold as I had imagined. Hm! Would you dare?