Tots Sants is a Catholic festival dedicated to honouring one's ancestors and is celebrated on November 1st, which is a public holiday It is intimately linked to the Day of the Dead or Dia dels Morts, which is celebrated the following day.
The traditional belief is that on November 1st the living visit the dead, and for this reason people tend to pay their respects at the graves of dead relatives and loved ones, whilst on November 2nd, the dead visit the living.
The Dia dels Morts is not so dissimilar from the idea behind Halloween, which is not traditionally celebrated in countries like Spain, France and Portugal, where the Tots Sants custom is typical.
The origins of Tots Sants go back to a Celtic festival called Samain, which venerated the dead. The Celts divided the year into the time of light and the time of darkness and Samain was one of the days that marked the change from one period to another and fitted into neither category.
This period of the year, immediately following harvest, is a time when the land is producing nothing and will remain dormant so the symbolic connection with death is not surprising amongst primitive farming communities.
Tots Sants didn't become a Christian festival until the 7th century, when Pope Boniface IV decided to purify the pagan Pantheon of Rome, which was dedicated to all the Roman Gods.
It's obvious how replacing the idea of All Gods with All Saints made the change an easy one to incorporate into the Christian tradition. He chose November 1st to celebrate the veneration of all the Christian saints and martyrs and ruled that the faithful should visit and give thanks to the dead.
Visiting dead relatives and tidying up the flowers at the cemetery remains traditional here in Catalonia, particularly amongst the older generations. However, the main popular celebration revolves around La Castanyada, when people eat roast chestnuts and moniatos or sweet potatoes both of which are typical at this time of year.
Being Catalonia, this has become an excuse for parties in schools and community and one of the other culinary delights are panallets, which traditionally are marzipan balls covered in pine nuts but are now available in various flavours.
Theatrical representations are also typical of the Castanyada festival with the most popular piece being the tale of the dastardly Don Juan Tenorio.
In recent years, the foreign tradition of Halloween has gained a lot of ground due to the influence of American television and the ease of commercialisation. I feel this cultural invasion should be resisted at all costs.
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