By Christine Medina
I’ve learned quickly that Spain isn’t the biggest Halloween destination in the world. Halloween is emerging in Spain, albeit slowly, as the traditional only started up 5-10 years ago. Costumes are limited to only ‘scary’ vampires, ghosts and witches, trick-or-treating doesn’t really happen, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of 12 dressed up, unless they’re a university student looking for an excuse to party.
But what Spain does celebrate, is Dia de Todos Los Santos, or All Saint’s Day, celebrated on November 1st. Traditionally this day, where most businesses are shut down and people have the day off of work, is for friends and families to visit the graves of their loved ones who have passed away. In Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, and towns and villages throughout Spain, streets are congested with cars heading to the cemeteries. Florists are selling more bouquets and arrangements than any other time of the year (20% of their yearly sales!). Bakeries are churning out orders of special pastries like Hueso de Santos (Saint Bones) made of marzipan, egg and sugar syrup.
By tradition, the majority of people in Spain are named after a saint. As is the case in many other Catholic countries, in Spain, people have their birthday, as well as their saint day, in honor of the saint they were named after. On All Saint’s Day, everyone is honored, and people travel back to their hometowns and villages to pay their respects by placing flowers on the graves.
Though pumpkin patches may not exist, and you’ll likely get odd looks if you step out in a wild, sexy, and/or funny costume, if you’re in Spain around Halloween, you will get to see a more solemn side of the Spanish people, balancing out the kookiness of October 31st festivities.
Let us know how you have experienced Day of The Dead and we don’t mean a hangover.
Christine Medina, originally from Seattle, WA in the United States has been
an expat in Andalucia for two years. She shares her travel advice,
anecdotes and photography over at http://www.christineinspain.com