You say Halloween, we say La Castanyada

You say Halloween, we say La Castanyada

La Castanyada is celebrated on the 31st of October in Catalonia where families and friends gather to eat together chestnuts, marzipan sweets called ‘panellets’, sweet potatoes and preserved fruits and drink moscatell. If you are renting an apartment in Barcelona around these dates, you will definitely get to see some street vendors offering you hot toasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes in a ‘paperina’.

La Castanyada is celebrated on the 31st of October in Catalonia where families and friends gather to eat together chestnuts, marzipan sweets called ‘panellets’, sweet potatoes and preserved fruits and drink moscatell. If you are renting an apartment in Barcelona around these dates, you will definitely get to see some street vendors offering you hot toasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes in a ‘paperina’ (https://culturapopular.bcn.cat/ca/festes-i-tradicions/tots-sants).

 

While English-speaking countries celebrate Halloween on the 31st of October, Catalonia has its own popular festivity on the same occasion, La Castanyada. Like Halloween or the Celtic Samhain, its origins are in ancient ritual festival of the dead ahead of All Saints’ Day.

 

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 neighbours 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 learnt by kids in school still recall them as the celebration is the first of the four main schools festivals in Catalonia, alongside Christmas, Carnestoltes and Sant Jordi, without reference to the commemoration of the dead. The current ‘castanyeres’ in the streets of Barcelona are now usually young students who see La Castanyada as a good occasion to make some pocket money.

 

The day after La Castanyada, Catalans celebrate All Saints as it is celebrated in most culturally Christian countries in the world. Given the occasion, you can take this chance to visit the historical Cemetery of Montjuïc free of charge: https://www.cbsa.cat/cemeteries/cementiri-montjuic/montjuic-route/?lang=en