Halloween, which is a Celtic festival in origin, has spread across the world, reaching, some would say, its apotheosis in the USA, where trick or treat seems to be an exercise in rampant commercialism that has now trickled its way across the Atlantic.

In Spain, and Hispanic countries generally, Halloween is, strictly speaking, only the first day of a three-day celebration, focused on the 2nd of November, which the Spanish call “Dia de los Muertos” – and we call All Souls Day.  With the Reformation in Britain, this Catholic festival is not perhaps as well known as it might be, however in Spain it is a major event.

What we call Halloween, the 31st of October, is referred to as the Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches). In Galicia, this is also called the Noite dos Calacus (Night of the Pumpkins).  Then, on the 1st of November, Spaniards celebrate All Saints Day (Dia de Todos los Santos), which is a public holiday, before the Dia de Los Muertos on the 2nd.  This third day often sees Requiem masses, where people can remember their relatives and friends who have died.

The three days of the festival are celebrated more in the north of Spain than the south, partly for the very simple reason of being nearer to the ancient Celtic world, whose peoples travelled to modern day Galicia, settling down there and introducing new, pagan customs.  A good example is the local beverage called quemadas, the ‘Fire Drink of Galicia’, which has been drunk in the ritual of La Queimada for hundreds of years.  This drink is infused with herbs and set alight, signifying the burning of bad luck and clearing out of any malevolent spirits that dwell among the living. Well, it certainly makes a change from San Miguel!


Juan Piedra