(Pictures by Jordi Carreño) A festival to remember the forebears. While Halloween is the most used name for the All Saints’ Eve, ‘Castanyada’ is the name given to this yearly celebration in Catalonia. The Catalan festival is not about ghosts, witches and pumkins, but the memory of the forebears. People traditionally take flowers to the cemetery for family members who have passed away.
There is also some typical food eaten during these dates in Catalonia: ‘castanyes‘ (chestnuts), ‘panallets‘, which are little marzipan cakes, and ‘moniato‘ (sweet potato). All these traditional meals allude to eternity, because it is believed that the souls of the dead visit us then. That’s why food made from long-lasting ingredients, such as dried fruit
Specifically, All Saints Day itself, 1st November, is the time for eating chestnuts and ‘panellets’. The next day, 2nd November, known as All Souls Day, people traditionally visit cementries. They generally go to the cemetery and visit the graves and tombs of their forebears, tide them up and decorate them with flowers. It is a family tradition and is kept a private affair.
There are also some traditional theatrical performances that take place on these dates.
The festival origins
Many cultures have established a day for remembering the dead around this date. Catalans have inherited the All Saints festival from a Celtic celebration. The Celts held the Sahmain festival in honour of the dead on 1st November because this is when the darkest period of the years begins. It was a magical moment for them because they believed links were established between the worlds of the living and the dead.
The origins of this celebration in the Christian world date back to the 7thcentury and, more specifically, to the dedication of the Pantheon in Rome – originally a pagan temple dedicated to all the gods – to the Mother of God and all the martyrs, by Pope Boniface IV. Later, in the 9th century, the festival spread throughout the Western world, thanks to Gregory IV.