Monday, November 1, 2010

La Castanyada

Even though I wasn’t back in the States for Halloween, I did celebrate the Catalan equivalent with my host family.

Here in Catalunya, they celebrate “La Castanyada” on or near All Saint’s Day (Tots Sants in Catalan).  Like in the rest of Spain and other Hispanic countries people go to the cemetery to clean off the graves of their loved ones and place flowers on their final resting place.  However, unlike the rest of Spain there is a traditional meal that everyone in Catalunya eats around this time.

They feast on a meal of roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and panellets (the most delicious pastries made from a paste of sugar and almonds).  So, last night my host mom’s family (her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter) and her friend José came over to celebrate the holiday.  Rafaela made the chestnuts and sweet potatoes while José and her daughter each brought over two dozen panellets.  After first eating tortilla española (potato omelet) she then brought out the castanyas i moniatos and to drink we had cava (Catalunya’s champagne).  I liked everything even though it was some work trying to get the shell off of the chestnut (they literally just came out of the oven).

When we were finished with that Rafaela brought out the pièce de résistance: els panellets!  They were soooo good.  The traditional one is covered with pine nuts but there’s panellets of every shape, size, color, and taste.  I tried some chocolate, coffee and coconut ones in addition to the pine nuts.  They were all so delicious, I need to learn how to make them (maybe for Christmas back in the States?)

Here’s a picture of our Castanyada feast:

And here's another one of a bakery selling panellets:

After the feast, the granddaughter got into the Halloween spirit and painted the faces of Rafaela, José and her mom.  It was pretty funny because she would disappear with them for 15 minutes and then come back in the living, announcing in a loud voice: “os presento (presenting) _____.” She turned José into Frankenstein and the two women into brujas (witches).

This brought up an interesting point of conversation.  They were all telling me that 10 years ago there was no such thing as Halloween in Spain but ever since then it’s becoming more and more popular each year.  In fact, I had three girls dressed as princesses ring the apartment’s doorbell and say, “trick-or-treat!”  I was speechless and had to say, “sorry, I don’t have any candy” (en castellano, of course) and as I closed the door I could see the smiles being wiped off their faces.  I told Rafaela about it and she just laughed (“I don’t have candy!”).  She said it was probably just the family next door and to not worry about it.

I enjoyed the holiday, as it was another cool aspect of the Catalan culture.  I already know that next year I’m going to miss panellets :(

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