The Spanish Halloween
Halloween is more popular in the United States than in other parts of the world. During the years Spain has borrowed it from overseas, but as usual, everything the nation borrows from other countries is adjusted as necessary for the entire Spanish community. Speaking of, Halloween is not characterized by great displays, but it is something more traditional, even different from most European countries.
The Spanish Halloween is a three-day celebration : “el Día de las Brujas” (literally the Day of Witches) on October 31st , “el Día de los Santos” (All Saints’ Day) on the 1st of November and “el Día de los Muertos” (literally the Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day) on November 2nd.
El Día de las Brujas
Although far from being a commercial holiday, all around Spain, and above all in the major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, Halloween partying has become more popular. Thanks to the presence of Universities hosting lots of students from every corner of the globe, many clubs, hotels, and restaurants started to organize glamorous events and colorful costume parties. During these events the atmosphere in Barcelona is really vibrant and Halloween parties have stopped to be just a children’s way to have fun going trick-or-treating!.
If you are spending some days in Barcelona, exactly in these days, you should not miss a visit to the city’s magnificent cemeteries as well, like Montjuïc, Poblenou and Les Corts, so you can have the chance to enjoy a magic night tour or special classical music concerts.
Another interesting custom you can appreciate in Barcelona is “Ruta de Altares” (literally the Route of the Altars), borrowed from the Mexican “Día de los Muertos” tradition, it is turning into something evident all around the city : adorned altars are arranged in various houses in order to honor the souls of the deceased through sharing memories and desires with food, flowers and drinks - think that this Mexican tradition has been declared by UNESCO to be a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity!
El Día de los Santos
All Saints’ Day is the most awaited event during barcelonian autumn. One of the best traditions in this special day is “La Castanyada” a typical festival that welcomes visitors with various events, artists, music concerts and kiosks set up with seasonal delicacies like castanyes or chestnuts, sweet potatoes, moscatell (a kind of sweet wine) and panellets – mostly round shaped cookies made of marzipan and pine nuts, including other flavors as well. Actually “la Castanyada” is represented by an old woman wearing an apron, a shawl and holding a basket full of chestnuts she has to sell to people all around the city.
All Saints’ Day is an heritage from Celtic pagan culture, in fact people used to celebrate the “Samhain”, a festival that symbolized the end of harvest and the beginning of the “darker half of the year”; furthermore they believed it was a magic moment that could connect the world of both dead and living people.
Being a public holiday – it means people don’t go to work or school -, families use to gather at the grave of their deceased relatives with flowers, food and drinks in order to honor them and rejoice the continuity of life.
El Día de los Muertos
Traditionally it is exactly the day in which people should go to cemeteries in order to visit and commemorate the dead. But, being a working day everybody started to anticipate this custom to the day before.
De facto, All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day have been combined on the 1st of November, which became a day of highly religious significance.
Right in this period the cold is approaching and the days shorten more and more, and the natural environment, after summertime, starts to pass away – apparently! -. For these reasons it in not so strange that many civilizations –think at the Celtic Samhain!- have established a day to honor their deceased relatives exactly on these days.
What about Halloween in your country? Are you more religious or party people? For sure in Barcelona you will have the chance to enjoy funny moments but also to appreciate some spiritual and emotional ones.