The magosto is a traditional festival in some areas of northern Spain, such as Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias and the provinces of León, Zamora and Salamanca and Cáceres (Las Hurdes). Castanyada in Catalan, the festival is also celebrated across Catalonia on both sides of the French-Spanish border. It is a popular party in Portugal, where it is called magusto. It has also spread internationally as chestnut party.
The common elements of this celebration are the celebration in the month of November (or end of October) and the main elements are chestnut and fire. With this feast the chestnut tree recovers the importance that the corn and the potato were snatched to him in the last centuries.
It is a party of Celtic roots, the party that celebrates the end of summer and begins the middle of the dark and cold year. In all the regions where it is celebrated and especially in Galicia, it is deeply related to the cult of the dead, being habitual to leave the fire of the house set and food around the fireplace so that the spirits of the deceased of the family return to their homes to warm up tonight. Numerous traditional rituals are celebrated throughout this feast, both for purification, healing, remembering ancestors, attending mass or visiting the local healer.
In Catalonia, celebrations involve eating castenyas (roast chestnuts), panellets (special almond balls covered in pine nuts), moniatos (roast or baked sweet potato), ossas de sant cake and preserved fruit (candied or glazed fruit). Moscatell (Muscat) is drunk from porrons. Around the time of this celebration, it is common for street vendors to sell hot toasted chestnuts wrapped in newspaper. In many places, confectioners often organise raffles of chestnuts and preserved fruit.
It seems that the tradition of eating these foods comes from the fact that during All Saints' night, on the eve of All Souls' Day in the Christian tradition, bell ringers would ring bells in commemoration of the dead into the early morning. Friends and relatives would help with this task, and everyone would eat these foods for sustenance.
Other versions of the story state that the Castanyada originates at the end of the 18th century and comes from the old funeral meals, where other foods, such as vegetables and dried fruit were not served. The meal had the symbolic significance of a communion with the souls of the departed: while the chestnuts were roasting, prayers would be said for the person who had just died.
The festival is usually depicted with the figure of a castanyera: an old lady, dressed in peasant's clothing and wearing a headscarf, sitting behind a table, roasting chestnuts for street sale.
In recent years, the Castanyada has become a revetlla of All Saints and is celebrated in the home and community. It is the first of the four main school festivals, alongside Christmas, Carnestoltes and St George's Day, without reference to ritual or commemoration of the dead.
Galicia and Portugal
The "Magosto" or "Magusto" is the essential Galician and Portuguese autumn pagan origin festival similar to the Gaelic Samhain (or "Samaín" word adapted to the Galician from the Irish Gaelic). In addition to chestnuts and local young wine, various foods have been incorporated such as sausages and other products made from the pig slaughter, which occurs precisely at that time. Does not usually miss the grilled sardines.
Chestnut festival is traditionally celebrated in the same grove (souto), starting early in the afternoon to collect firewood and chestnuts. One or more bonfires are lit with sticks and pine needles. Young people took to the streets. It was customary for the girls to bring the chestnuts, and for the boys to bring the wine. Chestnuts are roasted on the floor, directly in the fire. Children play to dirt their faces with soot and ash. The adults dance and sing, jumping over the remains of the fire.
- Soler i Amigó, Joan. Cultura popular tradicional. Barcelona:editorial Pòrtic. 2001