The magosto in Galicia: feast, tradition and roasted chestnuts

One of the most characteristic flavors of autumn is that of chestnuts roasted in the fire. Who has not enjoyed as a child a cone of burning chestnuts bought in a street stall?

In Galicia this tradition goes a little further and has its own celebration, the magosto, a real party around the bonfires where the most important thing is to enjoy good company, chestnuts and new wine.

The magosto is celebrated in Galicia in the first fortnight of November. The tradition varies throughout its geography, but has special relevance in the province of Orense and in the south of Lugo, where there is a greater number of soutos or chestnut groves.

Its origins

The magosto is a party deeply rooted in the Galician popular culture, however it also exists in other areas of northern Spain such as Cantabria, Asturias, Leon, Zamora and even in the neighboring country of Portugal where it is known as “magusto”.

It is thought to have a Celtic origin, and in the specific case of Galicia, it is related to the celebration of harvests and the worship of the dead.

Chestnut trees are an essential part of the Galician landscape. We see them in forests, gardens, surrounding monasteries… It is said that the Romans brought the most productive varieties of this tree. Chestnuts play a major role in the life and economic cycle of these regions. Everything was taken from the soutos, from its fruit to its wood and waste. The poorest peasant populations that could not feed themselves with wheat or cereal, dried and ground the chestnuts to make flour. This fact was maintained until the eighteenth century, when the extension of corn or potato crops brought from America, relegated the consumption of chestnuts to a second place.

The Galician historian Manuel Murguía pointed out the most magical aspects of the magosto. Chestnuts and fire would symbolize death, and the new wine the resurrection to life. Neighbors, family and friends gathered to celebrate the new harvest. They ate, drank, danced and ended up adorning their faces with ashes.

In this sense, fire plays an essential role. In fact, the Galician term “magosto” comes from the Latin words “Magnus Ustus” (great fire).

The magosto nowadays

Despite the passing of the centuries, the magosto festival continues practically unchanged, with a markedly popular character.

In the case of Orense, the magosto is celebrated coinciding with the feast of its patron saint, San Martín de Tours, on November 11. It is customary to climb a nearby mountain and light a bonfire in which pork, sausages and chestnuts are roasted.

Although you can also experience the magosto in the city and one of the most magical places to do it is in the Alameda Park, in Santiago de Compostela, where the crackling of chestnuts, happy conversations and wine, are accompanied by musical performances or workshops for children.

Did you know this Galician tradition? The magosto festival has been kept from generation to generation. We invite you to enjoy this and other autumn traditions in Galicia with the best rural tourism plans. Contact us!

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