Pope, SpongeBob face off in cheeky Spanish tradition
Pope Benedict XVI will be caught with his trousers down, competing
with cartoon character SpongeBob and football star Leo Messi this year
in a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Catalonia, according to the
makers of the "caganer" figurines.
The ceramic caganer statuettes show affectionate disrespect for
famous personalities from home and abroad.
They have been sold in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region around
Christmas since the 18th century, when they were placed in nativity
scenes in the hope of bringing good luck and a rich harvest.
But they show the personalities with their bottoms bared in the act
As in previous years, the personalities with the highest media
profiles are generally the best sellers.
Last year, US President Barack Obama and France's first lady Carla
Bruni-Sarkozy were among the top stars.
This year, Barcelona's Argentine footballer Messi, who won the Golden
Boot award as last season's top scorer in Europe's domestic leagues, is
expected to be big, said Marc Alos, a member of the Alos-Pla family
which produces the hand-painted figurines at its factory near Barcelona.
For children, Messi, whose caganer has just been reissued, will be
competing with popular television cartoon character SpongeBob
SquarePants, a newcomer this year.
"Michael Jackson will be also be highly sought after this year," as
will the pope, who visited Spain this month, said Alos.
Other new figurines include the Dalai Lama, Real Madrid coach Jose
Mourinho and Formula One driver Fernando Alonso in his new Ferrari
Catalonia's elections on November 28 are also likely to boost sales
of the top regional politicians, he said.
Alos said the company would be making 15,000 of the figures this
year, which are sold for between six and 15 euros (eight and 20 dollars)
He emphasized the caganers "are not intended to mock the
personalities or the office they represent but rather to pay tribute to
The original caganer, which literally translated from Catalan means
"the fertilizer", was a man wearing a red and black hat and peasant
costume shown performing his biological functions.
It was believed that his fertile deposits in the soil of the nativity
scene would bring a rich harvest.
But over time, the peasant has been replaced with well-known society
figures and personalities from the region, Spain and around the world,
in a reminder that all people are equal when it comes to biological