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Halloween is nuts:

embrace La Castanyada!

As in the previous article I feel we would be better forgetting the commercial celebration of Halloween and embracing local traditions. They are charming, quaint and full of meaning. Since moving here I have chosen to celebrate the Catalan “Castanyada” and All Souls day. This occurred as sadly one year, around the time of Halloween, we suffered an unexpected bereavement. The impact of a death combined with the horrific images of Halloween totally terrified my children and were very unsettling. Every year since, seeing the more modern images of Halloween invokes a return to this time and the pain of the event. In a way to counteract this I have turned our focus to a much lovelier more positive way to remember using “La Castanyada”. This celebration is all about honouring the dead and celebrating the continuity of life: surely this is more poignant and significant?

“La Castanyada” originated from an ancient Christian commemoration where the church bells were rung on “All Saints” night into the morning of “All Souls day”. Dried fruit, roasted chestnuts and root vegetables were eaten to give sustenance to the bell ringers.  Over time the celebration also became symbolised by the “Castanyera”; an old lady, wearing simple peasants clothing, a wide wool skirt covered by an apron and a headscarf, who sat behind a stove roasting chestnuts.

La ‘Castanyada’ evokes to Catalans the time when it’s cold, wintry and the family gathers around the fire to eat roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and ‘panellets’ (small Catalan cakes made of potato, almonds and pine nuts) accompanied by a sweet wine like ‘Moscatell’, ‘Garnatxa’ or ‘Mistela’ and to celebrate family. Many, on Souls day, will then gather at the graves of loved ones and decorate them with flowers, share food and drink and rejoice and celebrate those who have passed.

So my family now enjoy, instead of the horrors of a commercial Halloween (which never held any significance to us) a day celebrating and remembering family. We make panellets, tell family stories and at the eve of the day enjoy a toast to family who have passed, remembering the fun and joy they brought to our lives. So again this year I will raise my glass of Moscatell or Garnatxa and toast to the “Castanyada” and Catalonia for bringing this celebration into our lives and turning a negative into a positive.

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