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LA CASTANYADA – Catalan Halloween

November 3, 2017

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.

castañadaTypically La Castanyada is celebrated around meals consisting of chestnuts, marzipan sweets called “panallets”, 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 “panallets” at school, which will later be eaten with their family dinner.

At the end of the 18th century the tradition of eating chesnuts around these dates became widespread all over Catalonia. That is how the figure of the “castanyeres” emerged in the society. “Catanyeres” were chesnuts sellers typically represented by old women humbly dressed up in the peasant’s clothing and wearing a handcraft. 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 street 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 Cementary of Montjuïc free of charge:

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