Halloween in Spain: From Celtic Rituals to Zombie Walks
Like most things in Spain, what the nation borrows from overseas is usually adjusted and transformed into something of their own. In Spain it has a traditional feel which sets it apart from most European countries.
Better known as El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead or All Souls Day), Halloween in Spain is a three-day celebration that kicks off on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), continues with Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st, and culminates with Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd.
Far from being a commercial holiday, the Spanish Halloween is all about honoring the dead and celebrating the continuity of life. Accordingly, specific customs and rituals can be observed throughout the country, most of them similar to those in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking nations. For instance, during the Dia de Todos los Santos, which is a public holiday, many families tend to gather at the grave of their deceased relatives with holy water, flowers, food, and drink in order to rejoice and socialize.
Halloween is celebrated with more enthusiasm than in the rest of the country.
In Galicia, a region famous for its rich local folklore and ghost legends, the night of October 31st is known as Noite dos Calacús (Night of the Pumpkins) and is celebrated with pumpkin carving, costume parties, bonfires, rituals, and sometimes even trick-or-treating.
A special feature of Halloween in Galicia is the quemada – a strong alcoholic drink, usually made from aguardiente, unground coffee beans, sugar, and lemon rind or orange peels. Traditionally, the quemada is prepared within a pumpkin and consumed after reciting a spell (esconxuro).
Halloween in Madrid
Madrid greets Halloween with a plethora of exciting events and activities for the whole family, from flamboyant themed parties organized by the capital’s discos to great entertaining shows held in the main amusement parks.
Some of the most popular Halloween events in Madrid include the crazy Halloween Pub Crawl (starting in Plaza Mayor).
Moreover, during this time of the year, the city hosts a very special event – Sui Generis Madrid, formerly known as Semana Gótica de Madrid or Madrid Gothic Week.
And, if you don’t mind a 40 min train trip, the vibrant university town of Alcalá de Henares puts on a killer zombie march featuring drummers and dancing in the street, all sorts of scary creatures, as well as a professionally choreographed flash mob.
In northern Spain, locals celebrate All Souls Day with some traditional pastries called Huesos de Santo (Bones of the Holy), which they bring to the graves of loved ones along with flowers.
Unlike the US, where Halloween costumes are inspired by books, TV shows, and pop culture, people in Spain dress up in all kinds of spooky characters, from ghosts and werewolves to zombies and vampires.