L’HOME DELS NASSOS: THE MYTHICAL CATALAN CHARACTER WHO COULD BE ANYONE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
There’s a man of Catalan myth and legend that has children around Catalonia eager to spot him on New Year’s Eve. The story, as parents tell it, is that this man, the “Man of Noses,” has as many noses on his face as there are days remaining in the year, and that he can only be seen on December 31st. Upon hearing this, children innocently imagine a man with 365 noses roaming around and get worked up at the thought of seeing him. Having fun with the children’s reaction, parents will excitedly shout out that they’ve just seen him, sending the kids running out the door to try and find him.
Their mistake was failing to realize that, on the final day of the year, l’Home dels Nassos only has one nose and, therefore, could be anyone. They scamper about looking for a man covered in noses and don’t realize that a joke has been played on them. Once the children get tired of searching, parents tell them to go look at themselves in the mirror to see the l’Home dels Nassos because, like them, he only has one nose that day. He’s just like everyone else.
The following day, January 1st, he will have his 365 noses again, but he’ll never be seen. He goes back into hiding until his lucky day arrives and he can be just another face in the crowd once more.
Going back to earlier times in Barcelona on December 31st, it was said you could spot him on top of a platform at Pla de Palau, opposite La Llotja (now known as the Casa de la Llotja), where he, waiting until everyone could see him, blew his huge nose into a handkerchief, expelling enough mucus to stain a dozen bedsheets. Nowadays, however, the l’Home dels Nassos is someone who wears a large papier maché head and shows up at Pla de Palau at 12pm on New Year’s Eve and then parades through the streets of the Ribera neighborhood.
According to Joan Amades, the well-respected Catalan folklorist, the “Man of Noses” represents the spirit of vegetation. Amades suggests that the “Man of Noses’” hiding place was located inside of the “Tree of Noses,” which symbolized the passing of the year. The tree is where the myth of l’Home dels Nassos comes from. The tree was a rare species and had as many nose-shaped leaves as the days of the year. It was said that on the last day of the year, at midday, the tree would scatter all of its leaves while emitting a loud noise.
Amades’ notion that the “Man of Noses,” and, thus, the “Tree of Noses,” symbolize the spirit of vegetation seems “on the nose” when you read about the vegetation deity. This nature deity “typically undergoes dismemberment, scattering, and reintegration” and “has the ability to regenerate itself,” which fits the story of both l’Home and l’Arbre dels Nassos. The man regenerates his noses, the tree its nose-shaped leaves.
- Every New Year’s Eve, Barcelona hosts the “Cursa dels Nassos,” a 10k race in reference to the “Man of Noses.” The first race of its kind took place back in 1999 as the “San Silvestre Barcelonesa” and then changed to its current name in 2005.
- The “Man of Noses” has a friend who only comes out on December 30th, and his name is L’Home dels Orelles (“Man of Ears”). He’s a lesser known figure than l’Home dels Nassos, but his affliction is the same: he has as many ears as there are days remaining in the year. Naturally, then, his day to blend in is the second to last day of the year.
By EMILY BENSON
Photos by ISABEL TROYA
Information used from:
Costumari Català: El Curs de l’Any by Joan Amades (1952)
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