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  • Writer's pictureMaría Molina

Halloween. How it is celebrated in Spain

Halloween is the eve of All Saints' Day. We are going to learn about this day and how it is traditionally celebrated in Spain.

Origin of the celebration

The origin of this celebration seems to be Celtic. The Celts set 31 October as the end of the harvest season and called this date "Samhain".

Today the remains of Celtic culture are found in the regions on the map below, some of which are in northern Spain (Galicia and Asturias).

The remains of Celtic culture
The remains of Celtic culture

In the 9th century, All Saints' Day was fixed on 1 November. The eve of this holiday was called "All Hallows' Eve" in English. This expression evolved into Halloween.

The celebration thus unites Celtic and Christian traditions and did not begin to be celebrated en masse in the United States and Canada until the 1920s.

The internationalisation of Halloween took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s thanks to films and television series.

First Halloween parade, Minnesota, 1921
First Halloween parade, Minnesota, 1921

Celebrations and customs in Spain

"Samaín" and cemetery visits

Halloween has become an international holiday, but in Spain the important date is traditionally 1 November. It is All Saints' Day, a day on which the graves of relatives in the cemeteries are visited, any damage is repaired, cleaned and flowers are brought.

Not to be confused with All Souls' Day, also called Day of the Dead, which is celebrated in places like Mexico on 2 November.1921

Cemetery in Spain
Cemetery in Spain

However, in some towns in Galicia, the Samaín (Galician adaptation of the word Samhain) is celebrated on the night of October 31st. For example, in Ribadavia they celebrate the "Noite Meiga" (Galician expression meaning Witch Night) in which the protagonists are spells, witches and healers (Click on the image to see the atmosphere).

A curious tradition: The performance of Don Juan Tenorio

Although this tradition has been lost, did you know that it is customary to perform the verse play Don Juan Tenorio by Zorilla at this time of year? This play, and another by Tirso de Molina called El Burlador de Sevilla, is the basis of the famous myth of the "donjuán".

Donjuán according to the dictionary means seducer of women. Although it should be added that he does so even if he has to use deception. The word is often used as it is, for example, Aquel tipo es un donjuán.

In Zorrilla's play, a seducer in 16th century Seville, Don Juan, deceives and seduces a young nun, Doña Inés.

And what does all this have to do with these days? Well, it turns out that at the end of his days Don Juan is "visited" by many of the dead people he had offended while they were alive. Click on the image below to see a scene, the most famous, Don Jun's declaration to Doña Inés, in a television version performed by two great actors, Paco Rabal and Concha Velasco (the good stuff starts in the second 40).

Language can be complex. On page 106 of the document, you have the text (the good stuff starts in the second 40).

Culinary customs

In general throughout Spain it is the time for harvesting and eating chestnuts. The "Castanyada" (which is the Catalan word for chestnuts) is a festival in which people go to the mountains to collect and roast chestnuts, which are usually eaten with young wine from the last harvest and chorizo sausages. In many towns and cities, chestnuts are roasted in street stalls until after the Christmas period (click on the image to see one of these street stalls in Seville).

And speaking of roasts, it is also the season for roasted sweet potatoes.

Baked sweet potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes

Let's move on to the sweets

"Panellets" are a traditional sweet from Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, prepared for consumption on 1 November. There are several types, but the best known are the ones made with pine nuts. Here is a video in case you dare to make them (Click on the image).

Another classic at this time of year is the "buñuelos de viento". They look delicious and they are. If you click on the image you can follow a recipe to become a pastry chef or baker for All Saints' Day.

But the kings of sweets are undoubtedly the "huesos de santo". Its name is obvious: it looks like a bone and is eaten on All Saints' Day. If you make this one, you would be a champion of "Master Chef" (Access the recipe by clicking on the image).

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