Although many of us heard of or know all about Halloween, or even have disguised themselves into some creature of the night and went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, not all of the world celebrates it.
In Spain, people celebrate the Castañada. This festivity is typical in Catalonia and other parts of Spain, like Valencia, Cantabria, Galicia, Asturias, and even the Canary islands.
La Castanyada in Catalan, (also called Magosto, or Magusto) is internationally known as a ‘chestnut party’ and is celebrated in the fall. And, of course, it involves food. Lots of it! But we’ll get into that in a moment.
So, if you like chestnuts and the fiesta that goes with it, stick around because we will tell you how to celebrate it.
Origin of the Castañada Celebration
It is believed that the Castañada is deeply rooted in the Celtic tradition where people celebrated the end of the summer. But not only that.
The Castanyada dates back to the 18th century when people would gather with families, friends, and neighbors during All Saints’ Day to pay respect to their deceased.
If you do more research, you may learn that many countries in Europe and around the world celebrate it one way or another.
How do they do it in Spain? They leave food around the fireplace or on the table so that the spirits of the dead can help themselves and often, they go to the cemeteries to pay respect to their deceased.
This is, of course, all figuratively speaking but roasting chestnuts and food typical for this time of year is a symbolic act of remembering their ancestors.
How Spaniards Celebrate the Castañada?
No doubt that one of the most celebrated holidays in Catalonia, besides Christmas, is the Castañada. The name Castañada or Castanyada comes from la castaña (a chestnut) and the first thing you can think of is the smell of the roasted chestnut. It reminds us that the summer is over.
The celebration starts on October 31st but the main day is November 1st when Spaniards celebrate All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos). If you happen to be in Barcelona or any other Catalan city during this time, you will find castanyers roasting their chestnuts on the streets, serving them in paper cones. Don’t hesitate to buy some and warm your hands.
Although chestnuts are the main delicacy, Catalans also make other delicious food to properly welcome the arrival of autumn.
You will be thrilled to see tables full of panellets (little bread in Catalan), ball-shaped sweets made of almonds, eggs, potatoes and sugar, boniatos (sweet potatoes), and Moscatel, the exquisite sweet wine that goes perfectly with these Castanyada delicacies. It makes it a perfect excuse for families and friends to gather and share delicious meals.
Castañera – The Symbol of the Castañada
In Catalonia, the Christmas Catalan tradition has the figurines of the Caganer and the Tió de Nadal. However, the Castanyada has castañeras (castanyeras in Catalan) as the symbol of autumn or the one who welcomes it. It is usually represented as an old woman dressed in poor clothes, wearing a headscarf.
The typical scene where we can see her is by the clay oven roasting chestnuts. Nowadays, during the Castañada, you will see women dressed like this, selling chestnuts on the streets. Some parents even dress up their kids like castañeras during this time.
When the kids in schools say ¡Ha llegado la castañera! (The chestnut lady is here!), it means that the chestnut party is about to start. Everybody looks forward to eating chestnuts and spending this holiday enjoying the delicious food and gatherings on the street.
Castañada School Celebration
The Castanyada is most expected by the little ones. Kids enjoy this holiday not only in their families but in schools too because this is a great time to sing the Castañada song and prepare school plays.
In some schools, the teachers prepare the scene by putting the castañera doll in the center of the classroom or the school hallway. The chestnut lady carries a basket full of chestnuts and cookies and kids approach her to get some. Often, one of the teachers dresses up as castañera and offers the food to the little ones.
More often than not, the parents also enjoy this school celebration. Along with their children, they sing The Castañera song and do the choreography only to reminisce about their childhood.
En el tiempo de la castaña
la castañera, la castañera
trae castañas de la montaña
a la plaza de la ciudad
la camisa le va pequeña
la faldita la hace campana
los zapatos hacen cloc cloc
y al bailar siempre gira así
Traditions Similar to Castañada Around the World
The tradition of honoring the dead is as old as time. Although it may sound sad to remember your beloved deceased, this celebration is not about sorrow.
In many countries around the world, people celebrate and remember their dead. There’s the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) in Mexico where people walk down the streets dressed up as Catrina o Catrín. Mexicans build altars decorated with light candles and their deceased favorite food.
Gai Jatra is celebrated in Nepal and it honors those relatives who have died the previous year. Children of the deceased dress up as cows and walk through the streets. Gai Jatra means Cow carnival. In the Hindu religion, Gai means cow and it is sacred and considered a mother.
Japanese celebrate Urabon or Matsuri. They visit their deceased graves for three days, prepare the traditional food and light the fire to guide their ancestors’ spirits.
In Serbia, people celebrate Zadušnice (translated as Memorial Day). The custom is to go to church for liturgy and light some candles for the souls of the beloved deceased while saying a prayer. Afterward, families go to the cemetery to visit the graves and leave the food they prepared so that the spirits can feast.
The Castañada is the time when Catalans not only celebrate the end of the summer but also remember their dead. Although their dearest people are no longer with them, this is not a sad time.
If you decide to visit Spain during this period, you will enjoy the amazing smells of chestnuts spreading through the streets. Don’t prevent yourself from enjoying the panellets and Moscatel, because the beauty of this holiday is to gather and share nice memories.
However, if you want to immerse more into the Catalan culture, you can dress up as castañera and walk down the streets with your children, friends, and family. The best way to do it is to visit smaller towns and villages so you can see how Castanyada is really celebrated and how people keep this custom from dying.
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