La Castanyada

La Castanyada

Many countries nowadays celebrate Halloween. People dress up on the night of the 31st of October, also known as the night of witches. However, in Catalonia this celebration is not very common, we have our own unique tradition, La Castanyada !

The Castanyada is a festival with Catholic origins celebrated every 1st of November, known as All Saints’ Day. Today, it’s more commonly celebrated on the night of 31st of October. That’s because these days, on the 1st of November people often go to cemeteries to visit their loved ones who have passed away.

Typically La Castanyada is celebrated around meals consisting of chestnuts, marzipan sweets called ‘panellets’, sweet potatoes and preserved fruits with moscatell to drink. If you are staying in apartment in Barcelona around this time of the year, do not be surprised if you bump into some streets vendors selling hot toasted chestnuts or sweet potatoes traditionally wrapped in newspaper, called ‘paperina’. It is also common that children learn how to make their own ‘panellets’ in school, which will later be eaten with their family for dinner.

The legend says that the tradition of eating these highly energetic products the night before All Saints originated years ago when bell ringers had to work all night in churches to warn the neighbors of the coming time to pray for the deceased. Due to the exhausting activity of ringing the bells all night long, the bell ringers consumed chestnuts and sweet wine to gain forces.

At the end of the 18th century the tradition of eating chestnuts around these dates became widespread all over Catalonia. That is how the figure of the ‘castanyeres’ emerged in the society. ‘Castanyeres’ were chestnuts sellers typically represented by old women humbly dressed up in peasant’s clothing and wearing a headscarf. While the figure of the ‘castanyeres’ does not exist anymore as it used to be, many traditional songs still recall them as the celebration. La Castanyada is the first of the four main schools holidays in Catalonia, alongside with Christmas, Carnestoltes and Sant Jordi, without reference to the commemoration of the dead.

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