Christmas (La Navidad in Spanish, Nadal in Catalan) is perhaps the people's favourite among Catholic holidays, and the most highly anticipated one. Christmas in Spain is traditionally a very family-oriented holiday, and gift exchange and festive dinners on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day form an obligatory part of the festive program.
Christmas is preceded by Christmas lent - Advent, which begins four Sundays prior to the 25th of December and may, therefore, continue for at least 21 days and up to 28 days. Christmas Eve on December 24th in Spain is called La Nochebuena.
In preparation for Christmas, Catalan cities and towns put up street Nativity scenes (pessebres). In Barcelona, for example, a big scene makes an appearance right in front of Palau Generalitat de Catalunya. Miniature Nativity scenes are acted out in people's homes as well; many stores sell all the necessary props and costumes. Many Catalan towns also act out plays devoted to Christmas, called pastorets.
One of the favourite characters of Catalan Christmas tradition is TiГі de Nadal, literally "The Christmas Log", which is just a log of wood with a painted face and a red Catalan hat. TiГі de Nadal is the Catalan Santa Claus who gives presents to children on December 25th. Traditionally, TiГі de Nadal is taken home on December 8, covered by a warm blanket and fed food leftovers and pieces of bread up until Nochebuena, when the whole family is supposed to hit TiГі de Nadal with sticks while singing a special song, after which TiГі defecates presents for the family. For this reason, this curious character is also known as CagatiГі.