Once again and with great pleasure I am going to introduce one of our new team members. Her name is Simona and she is doing a work placement with us:
My name is Simona and I’m doing an intership here at Camino Barcelona. I studied Social and Cultural Anthropology at University in the Czech Republic and I wanted to benefit from practical experience abroad. When I was thinking about where to go I remembered that I spent a half year in Granada and I loved it. So I decided to go to Spain again. I chose Barcelona because it is an international city where there are lots of work opportunities and you can find a mixture of cultures.
Today I would like to focus on the Catalan celebration of All Saints on 31st October. This “fiesta” is called Castañada and immediately you will find out why. It has a very nice background to it which I will tell you about now.
It originates from the medieval age, a time which was heavily oriented by faith and religion. So it’s no surprise that it was customary to spend one night a year praying for dead relatives and friends. To remind surviving relatives of this tradition, on 31st October the bells of all local convents and parishes rung all day.
As you can imagine it is not easy to stay up all night (if there is no party ) so people usually took with them some chestnuts and white wine. Chestnuts are called castañas in Spanish so you can see where the “Spanish Halloween” name came from.
Apart from the chestnuts and wine, the mourner also received support from his relatives and friends who came to stay and pray with him. People started to prepare for this day a lot in advance, making sweet cookies called “Panellets” made from almonds and sugar. They also picked chestnuts and “Boniatos” ( a sweet potatoe like a yam), collected wood, made fires to roast chestnuts and boniatos, and had get-togethers around the fire. It started to be an end of crop celebration as well as a time to mourn the dead together.
In the 19th century, this custom became very widespread and commercialised. Woman from poor backgrounds sold roasted chestnuts in coffins on the streets.
These days you can find street sellers selling hot and delicious chestnuts a few days before the 31st October and the same for the sweet cookies “Panellets”. This holiday is now celebrated mainly in schools for children and among friends who get together round a table full of foods and sweets.
I hope you will enjoy autumn in Barcelona with their hot chestnuts and almond cookies.