Vampires, witches and the undead await just around the corner as we celebrate the Anglo import that is Halloween night. However, what about our own traditions when it comes to All Saints Day? Have we forgotten it all? The answer is “no”. As Spaniards, we stick to our habits and remember those that have passed by honouring them in different ways. Do not miss out on the five most characteristic Andalucia tradition this November 1st.
1. A Visit To The Cemeteries
Cemeteries are the stars of the day. If you find yourself anywhere in Spain on November 1st, you’ll see families heading to the cemetery to honour those that have passed. The graves are prepared days in advance so that everything is ready for the 1st of November, complete with cleaning and bleaching of the gravestones. The chrysanthemum flower is typical and predominantly place during this period, which is mixed with the evergreen cypress trees. This experience allows a token of remembrance and respect, as well as a closeness for those who have come to offer prayers for eternal rest.
2. Illuminating The Dead
This stands as one of the oldest traditions we still maintain. On the eve of the 31st of October, especially in Andalucia, we gather to illuminate the dead. To do this, we take a water container and pour in oil. Inside of this, we place so called “butterflies” (one for each death we want remembered) and ignite it. All this is done to “guide” the souls, giving them light and quiet. Many families leave their candles or butterflies in the windows, offering a typical image from this night of remembrance and nostalgia for those who have passed.
3. Don Juan Tenorio
No Night of All Saints in Spain is complete without the arrival of Don Juan Tenorio on stage. The theatres are filled to see Zorrilla’s seducer in this romantic drama. If you have the opportunity, don’t miss out on this event, which is truly rare in this time. Throughout time, this theatre event and All Saints Day have been linked – a link of the drama and remembering those that have passed. Presented as far back as the Roman age, this event carried through the Middle Ages and to the Auto Sacramentals – similar to Morality plays of England. The plot of Don Juan Tenorio evolves most of its plot in a cemetery and has been closely linked to these dates for decades.
4. The Tosantos
There are certain local parties that have transcended the rest of what Spain has to offer thanks to their originality. This is the case of the “Tosantos” of Cadiz. If you find yourself in area on All Saints Day, this should not be missed. Shopkeepers and the owners of stalls all decorate their market with their wares for the holiday. The result is a collection of fruits, vegetables and food products like pork and rabbits, all dressed as the celebrities of the moment, offering up an amusing and comic aspects of culture and society in a carnival style.
All Saints Day fills our home with a wide range of sweets. Grandmothers and granddaughters all gather around the stove to create typical treats for the day, including fritters, porridge or seasonal pastries, among many other delicacies. It is also very typical, especially in the area surrounding Huelva and Extremadura, to return home after visiting the cemetery to a tastes of typical local products and Autumn fruits. The quince and chestnuts are also additions that cannot be forgotten when setting an All Saints table.
The Christian tradition is very present throughout the day and prayer is a common point in each village of Spain. Despite the holidays that we import from other countries, our roots are still very visible and deeply ingrained. It is a way to honour and celebrate that is still very much ours.