La Castanyada traditionDuring the month of October we are fully immersed in autumn. The days get shorter, we start taking our coats out of the closet and on the street we smell the fire from the toasted chestnut stalls! La Castanyada -chesnut feast- is a popular festival throughout Catalonia that is celebrated on the night of October 31 and dates back years, since the 18th century.
So that while you roast chestnuts in the fireplaces of our rural houses you can connect with the true tradition, today we explain you some curiosities in order to understand its origins and their connection with All Saints' Day.
1. Where does the tradition come from?
Tradition says that, the night before All Saints' Day (November 1st) an ancient funeral ritual feast was held where offerings were offered to the deceased and all their friends and family gathered for a meal in honor of the deads. During, the most present foods were chestnuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, candied fruit and panellets.
For a few years now, chestnut stalls have been seen in many villages since the beginning of October, with the mythical figure of la castayera -the chestnut lady- (represented by an old woman with a basket where she carries chestnuts, dressed in apron and handkerchief on his head, toasting them in the fire of the burner at a stall in the squares of the villages).
2. Why chestnuts?
On the night of October 31st to November 1st, All Saints' Night is celebrated, where the deceased are honored. Formerly, the church bell towers rang all night to warn that November 1st was coming, and since there was no modern mechanism as at present to make them ring, the bell-ringer needed to have energy in order to be able to do this task. Therefore, making them ring, they would gather among themselves to eat a good cone of roasted chestnuts accompanied by sweet wine! That way they protected themselves from the cold and took energy to ring the bells throughout the night.
3. Freeing souls from purgatory
Chestnuts as such, not only served to energize the bell ringers, but there was the belief that for every chestnut that was eaten that night, a soul was freed from purgatory. That is why not only those responsible for ringing the bells ate them, but also everyone who wanted to free their deceased.
4. It is not just a Catalan celebration
La Castanyada is the Catalan, Aragonese, Balearic and Valencian version, but in fact, there are other traditions around chestnuts in other places, such as Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia or Castilla y León. There, chestnuts are roasted over bonfires and it is traditional to jump on top of them in order to drive away evil spirits and bad luck.
5. La Castanyada vs Halloween
In recent years, the tradition of Halloween has been imposed on our lands, competing and trying to unseat the traditional Castanyada. The two festivities are held on the night of October 31st and have more similar origins and characteristics than we think. Of Celtic origin, Halloween is a celebration in honor of the deceased. It was believed that on the night of the 31st the spirits returned to earth, and the living disguised themselves in masks in order to scare away the evil spirits.
Therefore, apart from giving you energy, every time you eat a chestnut on the night of November 31st, a soul is set free! Encourage yourself to follow La Castanyada with us!