Photo: Achromatic via WikiCommons.
My children will be celebrating La Castanyada at school this week. I am not sure what to expect or if I am supposed to contribute to the celebration. Sometimes the benefit of not understanding the language (they go to a Catalan school) is getting a participatory break here and there. If I focus really hard for the first 20 minutes of a school meeting in Catalan, I can comprehend a few phrases. Then I can peacefully smile, daydream and enjoy the sounds and rhythm of an unfamiliar language for the next hour and 40 minutes. But most of the time, it can be frustrating. Because some customs are so, well, custom, that people assume everyone knows what is expected of them and I show up empty-handed. Or worse, my child shows up empty-handed and feels left out of the group.
Last week, I went to the local flower shop at a nearby roundabout and saw a stand dressed with the Catalan flag colors and pumpkins. Ever curious, I dragged the kids over to check it out.
Two older men were roasting chestnuts/ "castanyes", sweet potatoes/"moniatos" and quince/"membrillo." While waiting for my goodies, I spied a bottle that I have seen around in shops and restaurants.
Once again curious, I had to ask, "que es esto?" Ahhhh, the old men laughed, "moscatel." And of course my streetside La Castanyada celebration would not be completed without a swig of moscatel, or maybe three.
What I didn't know at the time, was that the items we brought and my swigs are the traditional foods enjoyed during La Castanyada. No wonder so many cars were pulling over to the stand to buy roasted chestnuts wrapped in "paperines". That or they were laughing at the gringa drinking out of the "porron" the wrong way. I should have poured the moscatel into my mouth without touching my mouth. Next time...
So what is La Castanyada exactly?
Celebrated on All Saints day (Tots Sants in Catalan), November 1st, families gather to eat meals of roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and quince and drink Moscatel with special tiny desserts called "panellets."
Historically, La Castanyada, similar to other culture's All Saints day celebrations the day was a feast in honor of saints and dead ancestors. People traditionally ate such high energy foods as chestnuts during this night so that they would have the energy to stay awake through the vigil. Over time, La Castanyada morphed into a more seasonal celebration of autumn. People do still visit grave sites of their loved ones. From what I can tell it seems that celebrating the season of autumn and harvest is the main focus of La Castanyada nowadays.
Celebrate La Castanyada in Barcelona:
Kids in Barcelona offers a run-down of La Castanyada events in Barcelona. Information is provided in English.
Learn More About La Castanyada:
- Watch this video in Catalan that describes La Castanyada and shows chidren collecting castanyes.
- Educational site about La Castanyada with lots of links for children.
- Informative site about La Castanyada.
- Watch a children's story about La Castanyada (read in Catalan with pictures).
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