From today (31 October ), you will see chestnut sales on the streets of Barcelona. Why exactly from now on? During the night from 31th of October to 1th of November, the Catalans do not only celebrate All Saints’ Nights but also the Castañada – the eve of roasted chestnuts. During dinner, the families gather at the table and eat roasted chestnuts, bread and drink wine. Where does this tradition come from?
From the beginning of the ancient era chestnuts were quite an important product on the Iberian peninsula. Chestnuts and acorns were one of the basic products in the Iberian diet. With the arrival of the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula, chestnut cultivation increased. They were eaten as dried fruits or ground into flour.
During pagan holidays and festivities, chestnuts were offered as gifts to the gods in gratitude for the successful harvest.
But what does the chestnut have in common with the All Saints’ Nights ? We can find the beginning of this tradition in two customs, both from the end of the 18th century.
According to the first story, the tradition of Castañada is coming from the old funeral banquets. During these banquets, the only food served was legumes , dry fruits and chestnuts. During the baking of chestnuts, three parts of the rosary were recited for the souls of the deceased.
The second explanation is more practical. During the All Saints’ Nights the people had to pray all night for the souls of the dead. To prevent falling asleep, the church belfries had to ring the bells from dusk to dawn. The work was long and hard, the belfries ate highly energetic food to do their job: chestnuts, potatoes and wine.
If you are in Barcelona, try roasted chestnuts and feel the tradition of Castañada, if not, don’t worry, roasted chestnuts are selling on the streets of Barcelona until March.