On the 1st of November every year in Catalonia, locals take to the streets to purchase warm chestnuts and sweet treats to celebrate the changing of seasons and the incoming colder months. This day is known by locals as ‘La Castanyada’, literally meaning chestnut day, due to the tradition of eating chestnuts. On the same date, All Saint’s Day is celebrated, on which families come together to honour those who have died. This is a more widespread tradition but it celebrated alongside Castanyada in Barcelona and the Catalonia region.
# About the Festival
After all the celebrations of Halloween the previous night, All Saint’s Day (Tots Sants) is celebrated all across Spain as a way to remember and pay respects to loved ones who have passed away. Traditionally, church bells rang in villages to honour those who had died, which still happens in many small villages today. The bells would ring out through most of the night of the 1st of November and so warm chestnuts and sweet potatoes were eaten to keep out the cold. These were the typical foods as they were easy to find at that time of year and not very expensive.
# Modern Day Traditions
Nowadays, Castanyada is seen as a time for friends and family to come together to eat warm foods and drink sweet wine. The idea is to eat the traditional autumnal foods and gather by an open fire, just like the people of Catalonia did many years ago. For those who are out and about, vendors line the streets selling freshly roasted chestnuts (castanyes), sweet potatoes (moniatos) and panellets, which are traditional cakes usually made with ground almonds coated in pine nuts. Many people like to meet with friends in the streets and purchase chestnuts to keep them warm. The celebration is also a key part of the school year, so children in many parts of Spain will learn about the traditions and celebrate the arrival of winter each year and honour members of their families who have passed on.
Most bakeries around Catalonia will sell the sweet panellets which come in many different forms, some coated in pine nuts, some coated in almonds, all equally delicious! However, this could be a great opportunity for you to try your hand at baking. Why not have a go at making your own panellets in preparation for ‘La Castanyada’ and impress all of your friends and family! Watch this video below for a simple way to make three kinds of panellet.
Will you be in Barcelona during La Castanyada? Check out the best bakeries in Barcelona to get your hands on some tasty panellets. As this day is celebrated as a public holiday in Catalonia, it is the perfect chance to see how the locals live and feel part of a tradition if you are visiting Barcelona. The best places to get yourself some roasted chestnuts are the busier tourist areas like La Rambla and El Gótico because there are always many vendors available, unlike the quieter areas, and you can enjoy exploring the city with the warm chestnuts keeping you from getting cold!
# Changes due to COVID
As we continue to navigate life through this pandemic, we must adapt everything to be safer and to avoid large gatherings. Because of this, it is recommended that gatherings of friends and family during La Castanyada festival are kept to smaller numbers, and that those paying their respects to loved ones do so in a safe way. Measures will be taken in cemeteries to limit contact between visitors and to enable everyone to stay safe. Having said this, it is likely that we will still see street vendors selling chestnuts and sweet potatoes as this can be done in a safe and hygienic way, so the event will still go ahead, just in a new way with smaller celebrations!