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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tió Nadal

I just made my own Tió Nadal to teach my students about this tradición catalana. On December 8th this Tió Nadal will make his way to our doorstep at home and wait to be welcomed inside. My own children love this tradition. They even had me make 2 miniature logs for their bedrooms this year! We started doing this tradition in our home 4 years ago even though no one in our family is from Cataluña, Aragón, or even Spain for that matter!

In Cataluña and Aragón, Spain, Tió Nadal is an old tradition that is still very popular in the houses of las familias catalanas. In catalán the word Tió means log, and the word Nadal means Christmas. On December 8th, this Christmas log appears on the doorstep. The family brings him inside and places him by the Christmas tree. In the olden days, he was placed in or near the fireplace. Tió Nadal wears a little red barretina trimmed in black around the edges, a traditional hat of these regions. He has a smiling face and usually has two front legs that prop him up. The family puts a blanket over his body to keep him warm, and the children "feed" him little bites of food each day.

They also give the log a good wack on the back with a stick whenever they walk by the log. This is supposed to help the log digest the food. This is done everyday until December 24th. On Christmas Eve, everyone sings Tió Nadal this song while wacking the log with a stick. At the end of the song, the blanket is lifted and the children find that Tió Nadal has given them turrón or nuts or little presents. This is how I explain it to my students and my own children. I don't spell it out for them that the log is supposedly pooping out the presents. Although last year, my youngest at 6 years old figure out that caga in catalán means caca. There were lots of potty jokes and giggling! Sometimes my high school students figure it out, and sometimes they don't!

At school, each student in my Spanish IV class presents a Christmas tradition or a celebration that takes place during the Christmas season from a different Spanish-speaking country. You can get the free instructions for the presentation with a rubric here. I use Tió Nadal as my example for the class. I make the Tió Nadal ahead of time and have it set up in the classroom before the students arrive. I hide turrón under the blanket. After the students come in, I explain the tradition and play the song for Tió Nadal while wacking the log with the yard stick. At the end of the song, I whisk away the blanket and reveal the turrón. Then we eat it! I am lucky to live close to a TJ Maxx that always sells turrón from Spain during this time of year. I always buy it there for this activity. If you can't find turrón, you can always make it, or just use Hershey kisses, which is what our Tió Nadal leaves for my children at our house.

To make your own Tió Nadal, you will need:
*a cleanly cut log or branch for miniature logs
*2 smaller branches for the legs, also cleanly cut
*red felt for the hat and the blanket
*black felt or black construction paper for the trim of the hat
*paint or googly eyes
*paint or markers for the mouth
*a wooden peg for the nose or a skewer for miniature logs
*hot glue gun

This weekend I asked my husband to bring me a log so that I could make the Tió Nadal. He has brought me a nice log from our yard for the past 4 years. This year, however, each log he brought me was in various states of falling apart.

When I headed to the holly tree with a bow saw, my husband assured me he would take care of it and bring me what I needed. I guess he didn't want me to cut the branch of the holly tree, nor did he want to break out the chainsaw, because an hour later he returned with a real birch log that he had bought at Michaels! I didn't even know they sold logs there! There was also a 5 foot long birch branch, also real, that we cut and used for the legs and the bodies of the miniature logs.

I used the glue gun to glue the eyes. The nose is a small piece cut from a bamboo stick that we use as a stake for our peonies in the spring. I used a red marker to color the end of the nose after I glued it. I drew the eyebrows and the mouth with a sharpie marker. Then my husband cut the branch on an angle, and I used the glue gun to attach the legs. I had to glue them a few times because the bark on birch wood flakes off easily. In the past I have used oak logs and the bark doesn't flake off. (On the miniature logs, I used 3 inch pieces of bamboo for the legs.) To make the barretina, I took a square piece of red felt and folded it until it looked like this.

I hot glued it in place and also glued on the black strip of contruction paper. I used construction paper because I didn't have any black felt. The black felt is a better choice because eventually the paper will fade. Then I set the hat on Tió Nadal and covered him with his blanket. He is super cute and looks like all of the other photos I have seen of Tió Nadal in Spain! Last year my Spanish III class saw Tió Nadal and decided that they had to make them too. They brought in their own logs and we made them in class. Many saved them and have told me they are setting them out again this year under their Christmas tree. Who wouldn't want one of these!