Finding the exact explanation for this tradition is no easy task. Some say that it was all about providing a hot meal to visitors who came to town for the Carnival festivities. Others explain that it started because, years ago, many poor people were reduced to begging for alms and charity, so that was a special day to give them a hot meal. Whatever the case, in Castellterçol the festival has not only been preserved but considerably improved and participation has been growing year after year.
At the beginning of the last century, there were just four or five tureens of broth, which was ladled up in Plaça Vella. The preparation of escudella was only interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, and when the conflict ended on 30 January 1939, they were already back with three large pots on Shrove Tuesday of that very same year.
Today it’s a fantastic festival, with massive participation from locals, visitors and even students who want to learn about the tradition. In the past, a pig was slaughtered specially for the festival and a collection was held for the town to raise money. Today, though, the festival is funded and promoted by the Town Council.
All morning long, a group of village cooks prepares the escudella in Plaça Nova. They set up a long row of iron pipes in the square and hang roughly 25 sixty-litre pots, which provide enough delicious stew for around four thousand people. Two of the pots are used to make the basic stock in which the beef, pork and chicken are cooked. When ready, a few ladles of stock are then added to all of the other pots. The broth is stirred with wooden paddles and skimmed to remove any impurities.
At midday, after being blessed by the parish rector and a local celebrity, the escudella is distributed among the locals and visitors congregated in the square. Some people eat it right there and then.