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How do Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Halloween?
In Spain, Halloween is celebrated as a mixture of the pagan and Christian traditions typical of this season. Really?
We know that Halloween is traditionally celebrated in the UK, the US and other English-speaking countries. But what about in the Spanish-speaking world? This Language and Culture special shows a crossover between the pagan and the Christian traditions typical of this season.
Let’s have a look at what happens in Spain.
Halloween in Spain
Halloween is one of the many traditions that Spain has borrowed from overseas. However, by putting their own personal stamp on it, each region makes of this Halloween season something special.
Spanish Halloween is a three-day celebration, the first day being pagan and the other two Christian celebrations:
Day 1: 31 October, Día de las Brujas (Day of the Witches)
Day 2: 1 November, Día de todos los santos (All Saints Day) on
Day 3: 2 November, Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead or All Souls Day)
The aim is to honour the dead and celebrate the continuity of life. All Saints Day is a public holiday for honouring and remembering the dead. Families gather at the grave of their deceased relatives with holy water, flowers, food, and drink in order to celebrate and socialise.
Celtic traditions still prevail in the North of Spain, which is why Halloween is probably celebrated with more enthusiasm than in the rest of the country.
Galicia, for instance, is famous for its rich local folk tales and ghost stories. At Noite dos Calacús (Night of the Pumpkins) on 31 October there are many activities: pumpkin carving, costume parties, bonfires, special ceremonies, and trick-or-treating.
Queimada is probably the highlight of Halloween in Galicia. This a is a punch made from Galician augardente (Orujo Gallego) – a spirit distilled from wine and flavoured with special herbs or coffee, plus sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon. It is traditionally prepared in a hollow pumpkin. and drunk after reciting an esconxuro (a spell).
Typically, while preparing the queimada an esconxuro (spell or incantation) is recited, so that special powers are conferred to the punch and those drinking it.
The traditional Fira de les Bruixes (the Witches’ Fair) is a two-day festival that takes place every year in the small village of Sant Feliu Sasserra. It remembers those 23 women accused, prosecuted and sentenced to death during the Inquisition, after being accused of witchcraft.
La Castanyada is another popular Catalan festival celebrated on 31 October. Families and friends gather to eat together chestnuts, marzipan sweets called ‘panellets’, sweet potatoes and preserved fruits and drink moscatell.
Fiesta de Tosantos, or Fiesta de los Mercados, is a very original festival which takes place every 31 October in Cadiz, even though not typically Halloween style.
While the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween spreads throughout Spain, in Cádiz around 80 market stalls take part in this festival. They’re all decorated with fruits, vegetables, meat or fish, and create elaborate displays depicting scenes and characters from the latest financial, political, or social scandals.
In San Sebastián
Halloween in San Sebastián coincides with the annual Horror and Fantasy Film Festival, The festival is an enormous horror and fantasy knees-up, packed not only with films but also with street shows, performances, music, comic encounters and exhibitions. This is a family festival that takes into account children’s tastes.
We can see that in a country considered typically Christian and Catholic such as Spain, both Christian and pagan traditions co-exist. When it comes to the Halloween season, with each region leaves a mark in their own special way.
Now, what happens in other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America? Follow us in this sequel of our Language and Culture Special: Halloween in Spanish-speaking countries.