Every year since 1786, Saint Lucy’s feast day (December 13) has kicked off Barcelona’s glittering Fira de Santa Llucia. The narrow streets around the Gothic cathedral twinkle with stalls selling olive-wood bowls and soft-leather bags. The real fun lies by the cathedral steps, where stalls sell clay figures from pessebres – the nativity scenes so beloved of Catalans. Jesus, Mary and the shepherds are there, the star is the caganer, the ‘Christmas crapper’. The squatting figure’s defecation is said to signify fertilisation of the soil and the ordinariness of humanity. He’s been around for 400 years and is now available in many forms, from George Bush to the Pope.

There’s more Catalan scatology to be found with the stacks of smiley-faced logs. The caga tio (or ‘pooping log’) is the local answer to a pihata (suspended package of sweets ritually whacked open by Spanish children). In Barcelona, every Christmas, the сада tio gets the figurative crap beaten out of him by children with sticks, singing ‘Shit, log, shit’, as he drops gifts. When you’re hungry, visit Can Culleretes (C/Quintana 5). It’s been around as long as the market, and is great for a plate of goose stewed with pears. Nearby in El Born district, Hotel Banys Orientals (C/Argenteria 37; 00 34 93 268 8460, www.hotelbanys orientals.com; doubles from £85) is central, cheap and stylish. Airlines to Barcelona include Jet2 (www.jet2.com) from Belfast International, and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) from Luton.