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La Castanyada

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La Castanyada  (as it is called in Catalan) is a popular festival, celebrated in Catalonia, mainly on All Saints' Day. Like Halloween or the Celtic Samhain, its origins are in an ancient ritual festival of the dead. In Catalonia the celebration consists of a meal of chestnuts, panellets, sweet potato and preserved fruits, typically with moscatell to drink. Around the time of this celebration, it is common for street vendors to sell hot toasted chestnuts wrapped in newspaper. In many places, confectioners often organise raffles of chestnuts and preserved fruit. It seems that the tradition of eating these foods comes from the fact that during All Saints' night, the night before All Souls' Day in the Christian tradition, bell ringers would ring bells in commemoration of the dead into the early morning. Friends and relatives would help with this task, and everyone would eat these foods for sustenance. Other versions of the story state that the Castanyada originates at the end of the 18th century and comes from the old funeral meals, where other foods, such as vegetables and dried fruit were not served. The meal had the symbolic significance of a communion with the souls of the departed: while the chestnuts were roasting, prayers would be said for the person who had just died. The festival is usually depicted with the figure of a castanyera: an old lady, dressed in peasant's clothing and wearing a headscarf, sat behind a table, roasting chestnuts for street sale. In recent years, the Castanyada has become an ‘eve’ of All Saints and is celebrated in the home and community. It is the first of the four main school festivals, alongside Christmas, Carnestoltes and St George's Day, without reference to ritual or commemoration of the dead.

  Castanyera

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