In my Christmas celebration, I might have some strange traditions (i.e. I’ve been known to put the sheep on top of the stable), but the good people in Catalonia, Spain have us all beat. “The Caganer” is a part of the nativity scenes in Catalonia. “The Caganer” literally means (please forgive me for writing this) “The Pooper.” You read that right. The Caganer is a figurine in the manger scene along with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the rest. But the Caganer figurine, dressed in traditional Catalonian clothes, is (ummmm….) “taking care of his business.” This has been a Catalonia tradition for over 200 years and no one is quite sure why. Usually the figurine is placed off to the side or behind the stable, where he is doing #2. The most logical theory in my mind is that the Caganer expresses the truth that many people are unprepared for the coming of Jesus (both in Bethlehem and now). That may or may not be the reason for this strange addition to the nativity. Interestingly, the tradition has now morphed and famous people (President Obama, the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, Sponge Bob, etc.) figurines are sold in such a position to be placed in nativity scenes. It’s weird. (Google “pooping Nativity” and you will get an eyeful of this crazy tradition).
If the early church fathers could see what our 21st century American expression of the Christmas season has become, they might be more offended by our frenzied, consumeristic Christmas than even the bizarre Catalonian tradition. Advent was meant to be a time of reflection. Most of us are too exhausted to reflect on anything. We were to use this season to learn the importance of patience while we waited for the arrival of the newborn King. If you think the season has anything to do with patience, try finding a parking place in the same zip code as the shopping mall next Saturday or stand in the mile-long checkout line at the lone register with a human clerk at Walmart in the next month. Very little patience will be observed. The celebrations of coming of the new born King were to be after His arrival not before. In many ways. we’ve gotten things backwards.
We are at the front end of the Advent season (my first Christmas gathering is tonight). In the next 25 days we won’t be able to escape some of the traps of the season. Shopping, gatherings, and the busyness of the dreaded Christmas rush is upon us. Ready or not. But throughout this season, could we keep in mind that Jesus came for none of this stuff? He didn’t come so that we would decorate our houses with soon-to-be dead pine trees or that we would receive mountains of gifts or drink peppermint mochas in red cups. He came so that we might have “life and have it to the full.” In many ways, everything else is (ummm….) what the Caganer leaves behind.
I hope my poo pooing (pun intended) our traditions doesn’t turn me into a Scrooge, I simply want us to keep our focus on Jesus throughout the season.