Five weird and wonderful Spanish traditions on All Saints’ Day

Five weird and wonderful Spanish traditions on All Saints' Day
Sardines dressed up as Cadiz footballers. Photo: Panarria/Wikimedia
As is usually the case with Spanish festivals and traditions, this selection is truly bonkers.

El Día de Todos los Santos, a public holiday across Spain that falls on November 1st every year, is for most people a day of remembrance. 

Most Spaniards visit their loved ones at the local cemetery, leaving flowers at their tombstones and then spend the day with their families.

There are however a handful of towns and villages (mostly in Spain's once deeply religious but still very traditional Andalusia region) where locals have held onto to a quirkier interpretation of how to honour the dead.  

Fancy dress for animals and food in Cádiz

The southern coastal city of Cádiz treats All Saints’ Day (Tosantos as they call it) as a bit of a carnival.

But rather than succumbing to Halloween’s scary dress trends, Gaditanos put clothes on rabbits, pigs, fish and hens in the city’s Virgen del Rosario market.

Photo: Panarria/Wikimedia

As if that weren’t whacky enough, storekeepers also make doppelganger dolls of Spanish politicians, celebrities and depict social issues in Spain, using fruit, veg and nuts.

Photo: Panarria/Wikimedia

Porridge in keyholes near Jaén

In the small Andalusian village of Begíjar, young people celebrate El Día de Todos los Santos by taking a casserole of gachas (a type of local porridge) out for a stroll and then proceed to fill up every keyhole they can find with a dollop of oatmeal.

Why, you ask? Tradition has it that the porridge stops evil spirits from seeping in through Begíjar’s keyholes.

Photo: Mjblanco/Wikimedia

Aggressive child begging in Seville

Okay, we’ve embellished the title slightly. In the Sevillian town of El Ronquillo, kids essentially hit the streets and carry out a more low-key (but equally full-on) version of Halloween’s trick or treat tradition.

Legend has it that long ago El Ronquillo’s altar boys would chime the church bells incessantly during the month of November to remember the dead, and that they’d accept food offerings from the villagers to keep up the hard work.

With time, all of El Ronquillo’s children began knocking on doors, and in true Andalusian fashion would sing to the villagers in return for whatever food was available.

The lyrics of the most common song (La Cachetía) were a tad threatening however, along the lines of “If you don’t give me some nuts, I’ll ruin your wall” and “If you don’t hand over those chestnuts, I’ll stay here all day”.

The tradition lives on to this day (as does the song), but it’s all healthy snacks such as nuts, fruit and veg for these kids. This after all is some no-nonsense trick or treating, no sugar rushes or scary costumes.

Trip to the Jaén countryside to get away from all the drama

Here’s yet another Andalusian village that’s held on to a centuries old All Saints’ tradition, but this one has a particularly laidback, pagan twist to it.

Back when religious devoutness was the law in medieval Spain, a group of subversive peasants from the village of Baños de La Encina near Jaén decided enough was enough with the constant mourning, praying and bell-chiming (the latter used to be 24 hours a day for the whole month of November).

The men would skive off for a few days to the countryside to chill, leaving their wives to do all the praying from them.

Baños de La Encina’s residents still take part in this two to three-day long trip to ‘el campo’, where they (women as well now fortunately) sing, eat, play games and of course drink.

All in all, a relaxing break from life and all that ‘dead talk’.

Photo: Soyignatius/Flickr

Galicia has its own Halloween and it’s older than that US’s

This sea-swept northwestern region of Spain, with its Celtic roots and traditions, claims its ancient festivity – Samaín – was a precursor of America’s Halloween.

And there’s no reason to believe the rumours aren’t true, as the Gaelic ‘Samhain’ festival did merge with Christians’ All Saints’ tradition to form the foundations of modern-day, sugar-crusted Halloween.

In Galician villages such as Cedeira, O Vicedo and Narón, kids and adults have for centuries dressed up as spirits and magical beings, organised death marches, carved scary faces in pumpkins and gone trick or treating. Sound familiar?