When spring comes, the cycle of life restarts and traditions return.
Ofter our customers ask us what is the typical sweet that they can take as a souvenir when they return home. And we always answer that in Catalonia, more than a specific sweet (which there are also), we have a sweet or a dessert for each holiday.
With Easter comes the sweet preferred by children and not so children: the Mona de Pascua
Lent, historically, has been a period of abstinence that preceded the celebration of Holy Week. And the best way to celebrate the end of that contention was to always around the table.
It seems that, already in the 15th century, or even earlier, there was a tradition of eating a cake decorated with hard-boiled eggs at the end of Easter. At least, this is how Joan Amades explains it in his Costumari Català, in which this one and many other traditions are collected. However, there is no document prior to the end of the 18th century that specifically confirms this tradition.
Tradition marks that on Easter Sunday it is the godfather who gives to his godson a Mona made from a biscuit or brioche and on which, in the old days, as many eggs as the boy or girl had years were placed. Thus, the gift was repeteat annually until reaching the age of 12, at which time it was costumary to receive the sacrament of confirmation that ended the custom.
Today, with the imposition of confirmation almost gone, the tradition continues until the godfather and the godson so decide. Which normally does not usually happen.
But, where does this celebration come from?
The origin of this sweet and the festival that surrounds it is not very clear. There are several celebrations, all of them pagan, that could be considered as the origins of the tradition.
One the one hand, the celebration could recall the festivals of ancient Greece in honor of Artemis and which coincided with the beginning of spring, the Muniquias.
Others link them to those held in Rome in honor of Ceres, in which offering of sweets and other products were made to the goddess of agriculture.
There also those who want to find the origin of the party, and specially the courious name of the cake, in the Arabic word Munna or Mouna, the meaning of which seems to refer to some type of tax that was paid in the Arab world to feudal lords at the beginning of spring, but it was made effective with food.
Whatever the origin, what is clear is that the rite is related to fertility and the rebirth of life. Just what happens at this time of year. So, we come back to an ancient rite adapted to the Christian religious calendar.
It also happens that, at this time of year when days begins to get longer and there are more and more hours of sunshine, chickens increase egg production. Those who put on from Ash Wednesday were not consumed. They were collected and blessed and later distributed on Easter.
Hard boiled eggs versus chocolate eggs
But from the end of the 19th century, hard-boiled eggs whose shells were decorated in bright colors began to be replaced by chocolate eggs. The idea was from a Barcelona pastry chef, Mr. Agustí Massana, and it quickly became popular. In this way, soon, chocolate eggs evolved and became figurines of chickens, bunnies or puppies. From there to representing classic characters from cartoons, protagonists of children’s movies or soccer idols, everything was one step.
With traditional hard-boiled or chocolate eggs, animal figures, soccer balls, , princesses, airplanes, racing cars or television characters, what is clear is that the mona is the protagonist of the windows of the pastry shops in Catalonia since one month before the party day. Not surprisingly, the Catalan Confectioners Guild estimate that more than 600,000 monas are consumed on that day, not counting, of course, those prepared at home.
Don’t forget to walk with us through the Gothic Quarter when you come to Barcelona. In addition to stories and monuments we will also see some of the most typical pastry shops in Barcelona.