We all know the 1st of November is a National Holiday. We don’t have to go to work or to school because it’s All Saints Day. We are very clear about that but, what are we celebrating on All Saints Day and the previous days? And, most important, what should we do? Should we carve a pumpkin and turn it into a lantern? Should we bake Panellets? Dress up like zombies? Toast chestnuts? Go to the cemeteries?
Let’s try to bring some light on the Halloween/Castanyada subject: All Saints Days is also called the Day of the Dead. It’s the day to revere and remember all the Saints and all the Deads and it’s custom families go to the cemeteries to worship their dead and honor their graves with flowers. But, besides this tradition, there the Halloween and Castanyada Festivals that coexist in Catalonia fro the last 5 to 10 years. We won’t expand on Halloween, as it’s an Anglo-Saxon tradition extended worldwide, but we’ll talk about the Catalan Celebration: La Castanyada.
Castanyes and Moniatos
In Catalan, Castanya means chestnut, so Castanyada is the Chestnut Party and, as usual as in many other Catalan traditions, food is one of the main characters of the celebration. In this case, Chestnut, Sweet Potatoes and Panellets, are the traditional ingredients of the celebration. Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes are toasted or grilled and eaten warm: very caloric and energetic snacks to fight the low temperatures and cold we used to have in this time of the year. Linked to Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes we have the figure of Castanyera (Chestnut woman): an old lady dressed with long and wide skirt and an apron who toasts the chestnuts on the streets. You still can find some in Barcelona streets.
The other traditional sweet of Castanyada are the Panellets. These are small cakes baked with potatoes and ground almonds, also a high caloric snack that are usually eaten for dessert or at tea time accompanied by sweet liquors like Moscatell and Ratafia. You can find Panellets in bakeries and patisseries, but it is also tradition and still quiet common to cook them at home. At schools, children make Panellets themselves with their teachers and this is a habit that sometimes continues at home. Panellets are easy to make: you have to first make the dough mixing mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, sugar and ground almonds. When you have a compact though, the you make small balls out of it and cover this balls with the ingredients you prefer. The most traditional are the ones covered with toasted pine nuts and almonds, other with coconut or cocoa powder, etc… but you can attach to the balls whatever you like and make creative and innovative Panellets, as many people like to do.