The Christmas market in the Spanish city of Barcelona hides a funny and popular little figurine amid garlands, lights and nativities: the iconic "caganer" or the ''pooper". Many are caught unaware by the pooper when entering the market of Santa Lucia, a space for Christmas trees and carols, and people stop up to learn about this singular Catalan tradition. A "caganer" is a small figurine of a peasant wearing a traditional red beret, white blouse and bending down with his pants lowered as if pooping. It is often placed under a bridge, behind a haystack or discretely hidden in the Christmas nativity scene, but in the last few years it has gained importance and been shown off in the most colourful and disparate shapes and forms. Seen by some Catalans as the most popular figurine in the nativity scene, the range of defecating figurines has now expanded massively thanks to the help of a small workshop in northern Catalonia which has created different versions of this unusual Christmas icon. Politicians Angela Merkel and Barack Obama and even members of the British Royal Family are just a few of the types of "caganer" figurines offered by the Catalan workshop. Sports and and showbiz stars are not safe either and are also featured with their pants down. Peter, from Scotland, knew the caganer from other trips to Barcelona but said it was a fantastic tradition. "I think it is a great leveler. It means that we're all from the same human family, with all things in common. No matter how great you think you are, basically we are all just human beings and we should remember that everyone has got to go some time," he said. The "caganer" has been around since the 15th century, and he is believed to have been included in the nativity scene in the 17th century, coinciding with the peak of the Baroque style, which showed extreme realism, especially when referring to picturesque regional customs, all related to real life in the countryside. For many Catalan families, the "caganer" is a way of assuring good luck in the new year. It is supposed to represent a way of fertilising the ground with natural manure. Tradition therefore says people must change the figurine every day on the nativity scene in order to fertilise all the area and get the most out of it. Cristina and Gil, who were on a cruise in the Mediterranean sea and stopped by the Christmas market, got a nice surprise when they bumped into the poopers and got themselves one shaped as Barack Obama. "I think it is incredible, it is funny and I had never heard of it, and I think we should really start bringing it to America. It is a great tradition. Fertilisation? We should have that," Cristina said. FC Barcelona players also have their own little poopers, including midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who said he was delighted to have a version of himself at home. "My 'caganer' has been in our nativity for three years now. It is a very nice tradition," he told Reuters Television at a news conference. "My grandmother found it somewhere and bought it. I am very traditional, of the Catalan traditions, and I always try to support them anyhow. This is a very beautiful tradition and we have to keep it," he added. The "caganer" business was founded in 1992 by a potter family from the north of Catalonia. The small traditional workshop where all the clay figurines are made has survived the economic crisis in a country where the economy has shrunk by around 7.5 percent since the property bubble burst in 2008. But Marc Alos, a designer of some of the poopers, said it was a way in which tourism and sales in the region might be boosted. "Thanks to creating international poopers, we have been able to expand this tradition not only to Catalan and Spanish homes, but also abroad", he said. "It has helped us in the sense that a lot more people now know our product. We are in a period of economic crisis, but sometimes that helps to seek resources elsewhere and get out of it," he added. Catalonia is the region where the "caganer" tradition is strongest, but it is not an exclusive tradition as poopers can be seen in other Spanish regions like Valencia or Murcia, Portugal and Naples. People can buy "caganers" all year long, but they are traditionally bought at the Christmas market. Among other Catalan "pooping" traditions, there is also another Christmas figure called Caga Tio - a wood log with "barretina" which poops presents when hit - and a popular local saying before eating: "Menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort!", which means "eat well, poop strongly and do not be afraid of death."