It is not dress up as your favourite Goblin for the Spanish ,but rather an established tradition to honor the ones that are no longer with us. “Halloween” has been a Spanish affair for a long time ´it is known as known as El Dia de los Muertos -Day of the Dead or All Souls Day) It is a three-day celebration that kicks off on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), continues with Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st, and culminates with Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd.
All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first day of November. This festival that has its origin after the Great Persecution ordered by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century against the Christians,led the Church to establish a day for the commemoration of this fact, initially choosing the 21 February as the appropriate date. Later in the 8th century, it was moved to November 1, to coincide with the pagan celebration of the Celts or The Samhain New Year,which was celebrated on the eve of that day. They beleived that on the dawn of the 31st the loved ones that had long gone had a window opened to visit the living, when there was an opening between this world and that of the “other side”.
Spanish Halloween is all about honoring the dead and celebrating the continuity of life, with their specific customs and rituals celebrated throughout the country. (That were later,during the reconquista brought to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking nations). On the Dia de Todos los Santos, which is a ppublic holiday in Spain, many families tend to gather at the grave of their ancestors or relatives with holy water, some flowers and their favourite food, and drink in order to rejoice and socialize in their memory.
From Galicia to Andalusia, let’s have a look at how this festivity is is celebrated throughout Spain:
In the North, with their Celtic roots and traditions. In Galicia,this festivity,is celebrated with more passion,than in other regions.
Galicia,is an area with a rich local folklore, which includes; witches (known as meigas) many ghost legends.
The night of October 31st is known as “Noite dos Calacús” (The Night of the Pumpkins) There are many activities -such as pumpkin carving or costume parties, bonfires, local rituals, and sometimes even trick-or-treating.
A special feature of the Galician celebration is the quemada – a strong alcoholic drink, usually made from aguardiente, whole coffee beans, sugar, and lemon rind or orange peels. Traditionally, the quemada is prepared in a pumpkin and consumed after reciting a special spell kown as a “esconxuro”.
A Catalan tradition of this three day celebration is in Sant Feliu Sasserra, in the comarca of Bages, where a two-day Witch Festival is held every year to honor the 23 women who were sentenced to death during the Inquisition, after being accused of witchcraft.
In Barcelona,you will also find the chance to enjoy the Spanish tradition of La Castanyada.
This is a popular All Saints’ Day festival held each year on November 1st in the whole of Spain.In Catalonia, they welcomes visitors with various events, music concerts, and stalls filled with seasonal delicacies such as castanyes (chestnuts), sweet potatoes,wine, and panellets – a small Catalan cake madefrom marzipan .Another custom that can be observed in Barcelona is La Ruta de Altares (Route of the Altars, relatively new, coinciding with the Mexican way to celebrate Día de los Muertos).
If the year’s most terrifying night finds you in Malaga, don’t hesitate to visit the gorgeously decorated cemeteries.
This tradition, rooted for centuries in Andalusia, is also characterized by visiting the cemeteries, by the exquisite sweets that are served or made, like the sweet “huesos de Santos”made from marzipan,white in color and elongated in a cylindrical, originally filled with egg yolk candy resembling a bones or the Pestiños con arrope a doe that is fried and covered with honey syrup,or sweet potatoes sweets -made form quince & yams. There are also various forms of celebration that exist in the towns and cities- some of the most curious and interesting are in the province of Malaga it is a tradition to organize the “tostón de castañas”, next to the municipal cemetery in the evening of November 1.-All Saints Day- . This custom comes from when in the early morning of the Day of the Dead, the monaguillos rang the bells throughout the early hours, and many neighbors who used to go to visit their deceased and watch them in the cemetery,shared some home made sweets like the ones listed above or some chestnuts with a glass of aguardiente by the fire while spending the night in the cemetery.
Although not actually a Halloween celebration, La Fiesta de Tosantos, is a weird and original festival celebrated on October 31st in Cadiz.
Also known as La Fiesta de los Mercados, this event is humorous and satires of various concerts and street performances held throughout the city. The highlightis the decoration of the market stalls. Vendors use their different articles and merchandise to create elaborate displays that depict scenes and characters from the latest financial/ political/social scandals of the year gone by.
A wonderful All Saints Day tradition in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid, is Las Noches de Don Juan (The Nights of Don Juan). The festival takes place each November (2nd to the 30th) of beautiful open-air representations of José Zorrilla’s Don Juan Tenorio.
Unlike the US,the Spanish think of this day, as a way to honour their dead. Though in recent years people in Spain dress up in all kinds of spooky characters,from ghosts and werewolves to zombies or vampires invading the streets. The young children go for truco o trato (trick or treat) At the end of the day we can always honor the dead and have some fun while we are at it!