Halloween, in all of its jack-o-lantern carving, trick-or treating glory is a fairly new concept to Spaniards. Candy, costumes and carving pumpkins emerged only within the last 5-10 years and still do not have a mass-following. Instead, Spain focuses its celebrations on Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Day) on November 1st and reserves most traditional Halloween festivities for children and university students looking for an excuse to dress up and party.
Dia de Todos los Santos is a solemn day of remembrance where people return to their villages to visit and decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and gather with friends and family. Cemetaries are full of people, streets are congested with traffic and florists are churning out more sales than any other day of the year.
True to it’s gastronomic heart, Spain has traditional foods associated with the celebrations of Dia de Todos los Santos. Cylinders of marzipan, eggs and sugar syrup called Huesos de Santos (Saint Bones) and cinnamon-sugar donuts called Buñuelos de Viento (Puffs of Wind) are sold in bakeries while street vendors serving up roasted chestnuts (“La Castañadas”) are found on nearly every corner.
For an American expat like myself, nothing encourages homesickness more than not celebrating holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving in my home country. However, I’ve improvised by celebrating them regardless, sharing my culture with other Spaniards and also by taking the opportunity to learn more about the Spanish festivals that fill the calendar year-round, thus becoming ‘the best of both worlds’!
So; fellow expats, round-the-worlders and jetsetters, how do you celebrate home holidays on the road?