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Combining local holidays and traditions from home to create unique festivities

How international residents celebrate customs in Catalonia

A baker prepares 'panellets' ahead of 2023 Castanyada
A baker prepares 'panellets' ahead of 2023 Castanyada / Albert Hernàndez
Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | @pile_of_eggs | Barcelona

November 4, 2023 11:59 AM

November 4, 2023 12:16 PM

One aspect of living in a country different from the one you grew up in is the dilemma over how to celebrate holidays. Each country and region will have its own unique set of traditions and customs, and often these cannot be replicated abroad. As such, many expats and migrants take their festivities with them and celebrate them in their new home. 

However, given these celebrations will take place in a different country, the ingredients are naturally going to be different, and thus unique experiences are created with the blending of different cultures.  

At the Barcelona International Community Day, we spoke to foreign residents of Catalonia about how they mesh holidays from home with Catalan customs.

Halloween falls at the same time as the Catalan festival of Castanyada, leading to a natural blending of the customs. Globalization has even brought Halloween to Catalonia without the need necessarily for foreign residents to have imported it. Halloween offers chocolate, sweets, goblins, and ghouls, while Castanyada is all about roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes, sweet Moscatell wine, and nowadays in Catalonia the two holidays are very mixed.  

Deryll Kluskowski told Catalan News that in his neighborhood, the cultural mash-up of ‘Casta-ween’ is being celebrated, an idea that he was very enthusiastic about. “We still celebrate [the traditions] that we really like from America,” he explains.  

He visited the fair with Jamie Novak, who added that they were celebrating a “mash-up of some of the culture here with some of [their] American culture.” The ‘tió’ is another aspect of Catalan culture that has made its way into the American pair’s Christmas celebrations. “We think it's the weirdest, strangest, funniest thing ever,” Deryll says, laughing. 

Derek Lumpkins, another American expat says that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. “I love all the traditions and the food that go with it, but I don't think I can get all of those here. So I think by default, I will have to do some fusion.”  

He’s particularly worried about getting a turkey to roast in the oven, but was pleasantly surprised that butternut squash was an ingredient widely available in Catalonia.  

Zsuzsanna Magyar is a Hungarian researcher living in Barcelona, who has become well integrated into her new community. She tells Catalan News that she particularly enjoys having Hungarian style barbecues on her terrace for most of the Catalan, Spanish and Hungarian holidays, “and Russian and any other country.”  

Magyar combines cultures in the form of food, fusing different ingredients and cooking styles from around the world. Romanian-style eggplants, Hungarian-style pancakes, and Argentinian beef all on the one dinner table, as well as Catalan onions. “I really love the calçots, so we do that as well on the barbecue,” she adds. 

Cultural assimilation means different things to different people, and there will be varying levels of barriers to breaking into the society here for people’s different circumstances. All the while, cultural cross-pollination can bring about unique traditions for individual households. 

Elsewhere, Indian PhD student Rohit Nautiyal says there’s a great diaspora of Indian people in Barcelona, and this has helped him keep in touch with his roots. In October, the Indian community that he is a part of got together to celebrate “a nine-day long festival that we do India.”  

"We all met together, we danced, we had our traditional food.” Nautiyal says that this community has helped him feel “like part of a family even if you are 7,000 kilometers away from your home.”