All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

Pooping in the Christmas Manger – A Catalan Tradition

Pooping in the manger. Okay…this is a Christmas tradition I can get behind. I love this. Below is a link to a site that sells every type of pooping person you can think of from the Pope to Obama. Below that is an explanation for this strange Spanish Christmas custom from Wikipedia.

25. Caganer Papa Benet XVI Artesanía Caganer, Terra i Mar

The Story Behind Pooping in the Manger

A Caganer is a little statue unique to Catalonia, and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra.

In Catalonia, as in most of Italy, South France and Spain, the traditional Christmas decoration is a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to American Nativity scenes that encompasses the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. The Catalans have added an extra character that is not found in the manger scenes of any other culture. In addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds and company, Catalans have the character known as the Caganer. This extra little character is often tucked away in some corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene, where he is not easily noticed. There is a good reason for his obscure position in the display, for “caganer” translates from Catalan to English as “defecator”, and that is exactly what this little statue is doing — defecating.

The reasons for placing a man who is in the act of excreting solid waste from his posterior in a scene which is widely considered holy are as follows:

  1. Just tradition.
  2. Scatological humor.
  3. Finding the Caganer is a fun game, especially for children.
  4. The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. However, this is probably an a posteriori explanation, and nobody would say they put the Caganer on the Nativity scene for this reason.
  5. The Caganer represents the equality of all people e.g. regardless of status, race, gender everyone defecates.

The exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but the tradition has existed since the 18th century. Originally, the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing a traditional hat called a barretina — a red stocking hat with a black band.

The Catalans have modified this tradition somewhat since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional caganer design, you can easily find other characters assuming the caganer position, such as nuns, devils, Santa Claus, celebrities, athletes, historical figures, politicians, Spanish royalty, and other famous people past and present, including Pope John Paul II, Salvador Dalí, prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Princess Letizia and even Osama bin Laden.

The practice is tolerated by the local Catholic church. Caganers are easiest to find before Christmas in holiday markets, like the one in front of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, which has tables and tables of caganers. Caganers have even been featured in art exhibits.

The caganer is not the only defecating character in the Catalan Christmas tradition—another is the Tió de Nadal, which also makes extensive use of the image of human waste production. Other mentions of feces and defecation are common in Catalan folklore. One popular Catalan phrase before eating says “menja bé, caga fort!” (Eat well, shit strong!).

Seven Gifts for Your Intrepid Friend (or for me, if you like!)

Christmas shopping for a vagabond can be a nightmare. After all, this is a person who probably is in the process of getting rid of everything they own, trying to lighten their load, looking for multi-functionality, and not really interested in the usual things you might buy for friends or family. Never fear. I’ve scoured the internet for seven things that any nomad or traveler will certainly love. In fact, these just might work with anyone that has a spark of adventure in them.

Kindle Fire1)My new favorite thing ever. The kindle really is the readers best friend. Lighter than the thinnest paperback, a battery that lasts at least a month, wifi access to the world’s biggest bookstore, magazines, newspapers and at least a million free ebooks and enough memory to hold 1400 books. Plus, it comes in four varieties – the basic Kindle with five way controller ($69), the Kindle Paperwhite ($119), or the  awesome Kindle Fire HD ($499) with color, HD video, and more. These are the coolest things I can think of for a traveler.

gift cards from Amazon2) While we’re at it, if they already have a Kindle or even if they just love to read good old fashioned books – a gift card from Amazon is a great gift. $50 or $25 gift cards give the gift of reading.

solar charger for travel3) Solar powered chargers. What bedouin doesn’t want to be able to charge their phone, laptop, Kindle or iPod with the light of day?

power adaptor international4) Of course, when on the road, it might be raining, so why not give your adventurer a universal power adaptor? There’s nothing worse than being in an airport and realizing that you can’t plug in and your battery is going.

language courses5) Of course anyone will love it if you book a Flight to Hawaii for them, but my recommendation is to give that to yourself. For the traveler, why not give them the gift of language. Courses such as Spanish, German, or Arabic are affordable and will be appreciated for a lifetime.

ugg slippers6)Uggs Shoes – Probably the most comfortable boots to travel in on the market today. Here’s the thing, most travelers I know skimp on boots or slippers so they can spend more on seeing the places they visit, but if you are wearing Uggs, your time will always be more comfortable and better spent.

travel maps7) Maps! Globes! Charts! What traveler doesn’t love looking at maps? Hanging wall maps, spinning the globe and seeing where to go next, putting thumb tacks in the places they’ve been. Don’t underestimate the power of maps to excite and inspire.