Saturday, December 16, 2006


Belen is of course Spanish for Bethlehem. In a country where Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus, the depiction of the nativity is important. Most homes will have a Belen like ours on display. In towns and cities though there will be much grander and more comprehensive displays for the public to visit.

The Belen in Torrevieja is particularly impressive and shows the full story of the nativity in a series of tableaux. It is located in the Plaza de la Constitution in front of the Immaculada Church on Calle Ramon Galud.

For more pictures go to Our Spanish Album

Along with Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus in the manger, three wise men, the Angel Gabriel, shepherds and an assortment of donkeys and sheep there is an 'extra' who plays his own small but significant part.

His name is 'Caganer' which translates as 'Sh*****'. Apparently this little figure was added to the traditional Belen by the Catalans in the late 18th century and has been adopted and become a popular figure all over Spain.

The exact origin of Caganer is unclear and there are several theories. Firstly that he represents the fertilisation of the earth to ensure a Buena cosecha (or good harvest); secondly that he represents the equality of all people regardless of gender, race, creed or colour (i.e. everyone has to do it). Some claim it is purely scatological humour or simply a game designed to entertain children.

This tradition has evolved since the 1940's and in addition to the original Caganer it is now common to find him depicted as pop stars, political figures, celebrities, Father Christmas, devils, Spanish royalty and even the Pope!

If you visit the Belen in Torrevieja, see if you can find him sitting on the toilet with his trousers down.

There is a popular expression relating to the act, "Menja be, caga fort!" which translates as "Eat well, s**t strong!" - something to remember as you tuck into turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas Day!

There is even a tableaux representing the salt industry in Torrevieja.

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