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Pessebres

Pessebres are nativity scenes that, in Catalonia at least, become very elaborate and large displays often taking in some aspects of local life. The village of Mont-ras just outside Palafrugell organises a competition of Pessebres each year with around 15-20 nativity scenes designed and made by local people, on display.

Pessebres aren't the only Christmas nativity scene. Several villages also have living nativity scenes on certain evenings close to Christmas with actors playing the part of Mary and Joseph.

Christmas is also celebrated somewhat differently from Northern Europe. The traditional Catalan christmas dinner is usually a vast assortment of fish eaten and a special selection of pasta de navidad cooked in caldo (stock). It can feel strange to see supermarkets advertising shellfish for Christmas dinner, and turkeys can be extremely difficult to find as a traditional English turkey dinner is definitely not on the Catalan menu.

Having said that, some aspects are creeping in. Traditionally Catalans do not have Christmas trees (the northern Spruce pine is not a native tree here), instead they have a caga-tio. That is a little log with a red barretina cap (the traditional catalan cap). The tio is covered by a blanket and the children hit the log with a stick and it 'poohs' (literally the meaning of caga) sweets for the children. It's not the only thing poohing at Christmas. In the traditional nativity scene there is normally a small figurine squatting with its trousers around it's ankles - usually based on some current famous person or celebrity.

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