In this article we are going to discover the traditions of the Day of the Dead (Día de Difuntos) in Spain and the differences with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) in Mexico and Halloween in the United States.
In all cultures the deceased are venerated, people who have passed away. In Spain and many Catholic countries the first days of November are dedicated to remember our loved ones. It is a festival of religious origin.
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When is the Day of the Dead celebrated?
The days of celebration in Spain are November 1, All Saints’ Day (día de Todos los Santos ), it is celebrated that all the saints have ascended to heaven and on November 2, which is the day of the dead (día de los Difuntos), all loved ones are reminded that have passed away.
During these days there are numerous traditions and festivities that vary depending on the area of Spain in which you are.
- Canarias: the “Night of the Fianos” is celebrated, the cities are filled with bonfires, music and dances.
- Galicia: “El Samaín” the night of October 31. It is a celebration of Celtic origin.
- Cádiz: “Tosantos” is celebrated where the carnival tradition appears in the food markets, stalls are decorated and animals, fruits and vegetables are disguised. Finally there is a contest between the positions that have participated.
- Soria: Also on October 31, “El Monte de las Ánimas” is celebrated, giant puppets, monks, skeletons walk through the city under the light of torches. The work of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer that gives its name to the festival is read.
Traditions of the day of the dead in Spain
Since the days before these dates, many families go to cemeteries to clean, the graves of their loved ones who have died. In addition to cleaning the graves, it is customary to decorate them with fresh flowers. Source Pixabay
All Saints sweets
These days are not very happy in Spain, so to sweeten them we have a good variety of sweets, which sweeten the bitter memory of having lost our loved ones. The typical sweets of these dates are: buñuelos de viento, it is a fried dough that you can currently find with different fillings but the classic one is not filled. It is called Buñuelos de viento. There are also the bones of saints (huesos de Santo), which is a marzipan dough filled with egg yolk, you can find other fillings such as plum, coconut, angel hair …
Finally there are the Panellets, a typical sweet from the areas of Catalonia and Aragon. It is an almond dough with pine nuts on top.
Don Juan Tenorio
In many Spanish stages plays are held representing this work by the author Zorrilla. There are even cities like Alcalá de Henares and Seville, where the play is set, where you can see theatrical performances in the streets. Wikipedia source
Halloween and Day of the Dead
As you can see, the Spanish party is not very happy. It is not difficult to understand that every time other traditions such as Halloween in the United States and El Dia de los Muertos in Mexico are more present in our culture.
In fact, there are towns like Maro (Málaga) where Maroween is celebrated, a festival where Anglo-Saxon culture is mixed with Spanish. A night of chestnuts, roasted sweet potatoes, witches and terrifying costumes.
Halloween (Estados Unidos)
Don't you know it's Halloween? It's a party of North American origin. The houses are decorated in a terrifying way and the costumed children go out into the streets in disguise asking for sweets. They tend to ask Trick or Treat? If you don't give them candy, I try, they can do some mischief. In Spain it is a tradition that is being implemented little by little, it is easy to find parties, passages of terror in the streets or in an establishment. Source: Pixabay
Día de los Muertos (México)
This Mexican holiday is similar to the Spanish one, since we have the same religious origins. But the Mexican party also mixes with the original cultures of the area. It gives rise to a party full of color and very happy. Mexicans also go to cemeteries to remember their loved ones but they do so in a totally festive and joyful atmosphere. No wonder it is also being established in Spain!
In this party they remember their dead through an altar, where they place photos, decorations, food, sweets and things related to those remembered. It is also a festival full of traditions and legends.
I encourage you to see the movie “Coco”, where you can see how this party is celebrated in Mexico and the symbolism that surrounds it. If you feel like it, you can enter the profedeele website and do some exercises on the film.
To finish, I also leave you the video that my partner Manuela Aparicio and I made about these parties and how we live them.
You can take the questionnaire to check your knowledge about these festivals in Spain.
You can also listen to us on the Deleando por el Mundo Podcast, a podcast in which I collaborate, dedicated to students who are preparing some of the DELE exams at the Instituto Cervantes.
Although the podcast is about DELE, we also have episodes where we talk about some Spanish customs and traditions.
You can watch the video here. (you will see it from 11/01/2021)