Customs and celebrations to honour the end of the harvest, the change of the seasons and the passage of life into death come together in many notable traditions at this time of the year.
The festival of Todos los Santos (All Saints´ day) is celebrated throughout Spain as a national holiday on November 1st each year.
Although the American-style “ghosts and ghouls” type of Halloween is now creeping into the Spanish calendar each year (sadly), traditionally this time is celebrated here in a different form, as “El Día de los Muertos” or the “Day of the Dead” .
The three-day event, beginning on the evening of October 31 and ending on November 2 (All Souls´ day) sees cemeteries packed with families paying homage to their dead. Family members tend the gravestones of their loved ones by painting, weeding and cleaning them, and by placing fresh flowers and candles.
We often visit our local cemetery on November 1st, and apart from the sheer number of people, the first thing that always strikes me is the overwhelming fragrance of fresh flowers.
Family members of all ages arrive carrying vases, buckets, bottles of water, cleaning items, candles and arms full of flowers. The atmosphere is not at all solemn and the sound of chatter is everywhere, with people greeting each other with kisses and hugs. Each member of the family plays their part in the cleaning and tending of the grave and, when they were finally satisfied, they wandered around the cemetery, looking at other graves to remember the dead, before leaving.
What I particularly like about this lovely Spanish tradition is that all of the frightening aspects of the afterlife are taken out of it. This is a commemoration for loved ones with nothing ghoulish or scary involved. Exactly as it should be, in my opinion.
How do you honour loved ones who have passed away, in your part of the world?
Here are some other posts that I hope you might enjoy: