October 31 is a date that is celebrated in Anglo-Saxon countries around the globe, and it is especially the youngest who appreciate it. It is the night of Halloween, a holiday that is slowly gaining popularity in Spain. In Spain we do, however, have our own All Saints’ Day. We’ll explain you what it is!
Although ever more people in Spain celebrate Halloween, this holiday – which has its roots in the Celtic culture – has little in common with our country. The celebrations that in the Irish culture are a tradition on ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ – the night before All Saints’ Day – through Irish immigrants became popular in the United States in the nineteenth century. The originally folkloric festival was turned into a form of entertainment that has children and adults alike, usually disguised in monster costumes, go trick-or-treating with their friends and families.
The custom of celebrating Halloween exists in many parts of Spain too, but instead of pumpkins we usually eat chestnuts. At any rate, the date that is of real significance is November 1, which in the Catholic faith is when All Saints’ Day is celebrated.
All Saints’ Day dates back to November of the year 980, when the French abbot Odilo of Cluny dedicated the first day of that month to praying for the deceased. Spanish people on that day still have the habit to visit the place where the deceased are and to leave flowers for them and pray for them.
Although November 1 is a day we remember deceased people, it is not necessarily a day of sadness. Cemeteries abound with flowers – especially chrysanthemums – for the occasion, and celebrating life is an important element of the day. It is custom in Spain to eat sweet pastries on November 1 that are called ‘buñuelos de viento’ and ‘huesos de santo’ (other Spanish regions have different desserts), and which pastry shops make only on this day:
Buñuelos de viento are a pastry made with dough that consists of wheat flour, lard and eggs and that is fried in hot olive oil. The pastry originated in Spain between the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It is a popular snack in countries around the world, such as Argentina, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America, Turkey, and Morocco.
Huesos de santo – Spanish for ‘Saints’ bones’ – are a typical Spanish pastry that is especially eaten around All Saints’ Day. The exterior of these pastries is made of marzipan; on the inside they contain egg yolk or jam. Their name stems from the fact they look like bones. They were first made as early as the seventeenth century.
Many people also enjoy going to the theatre around All Saints’ Day to watch the play ‘Don Juan Tenorio’, written by José Zorrilla in 1844. It is a fixed part of the program in many theatres in Spain this time of year because the final act takes place on the night before All Saints’ Day.
There are some towns or villages which celebrate this day with a special fair like Cocentaina, a 11000-inhabitant town located in the province of Alicante. Its All-Saints’ Fair includes a wide range of cultural attractions and has been going on for more than 600 years!
So if you are a CEU-UCH student and you are spending this first weekend of November in our region, we encourage you to try our traditional pastries and to participate in our cultural traditions. If, on the other hand, you are more of a trick-or-treater and you are looking for a good plan for Halloween night, check out what’s planned in Valencia here!
In either case, we invite you to share your thoughts, impressions and photos with us on Instagram!