It’s nearly the end of October. The clocks ‘go back’ this weekend, and on Tuesday it will be Halloween.
Celebrating Halloween in warm and sunny Andalusia feels a little strange to someone from the north of England.
Halloween is about the world of the dead, and in northern Europe at this time of year, with the daylight fading (desvaneciéndose), darkness moving into the afternoon, mist and fog in the air, bare branches and piles of wet leaves along the pavements, the world of the dead seems very close at hand (a mano) .
The word ‘Halloween’, or ‘Hallowe’en’, is a contraction of ‘All Hallows’ Evening’, also known as All Saints’ Eve. ‘Hallowed’ is another word for ‘holy’ (sagrado) and also gives us the word ‘halo’ aureola). All Hallows’ Eve is the evening of All Hallows Day (All Saints Day), an important part of the Western Christian calendar. Allhallowtide - Halloween, All Saints’ Day on the 1st November and All Souls’ Day on the 2nd - are a time for honouring the saints and martyrs, praying for recently departed souls and remembering the dear departed from years gone by.
However, the roots of Halloween go back to pre-Christian times. In Northern Europe, the change to the winter part of the year was one of the important pagan festivals. It was known as Samhain (summer’s end) in Irish and Nos Galan Gaeaf (winter’s eve) in Welsh. In Anglo-Saxon it was called Blodmonath (blood month) because it was the time when animals which could not be fed over the winter months would be killed.
With grain and fruit from the autumn harvest and meat from the slaughtered animals (animales sacrificados), the festival was a time of feasting and celebration; but it was also a time of fear.
Even in the modern world, the shortening (acortamiento) of the days, the coming of the cold and the fading of the light can be a little unsettling (perturbador). In the past it was a frightening prospect (perspectiva aterradora). There would be months of dark, cold, hunger and illness to come. It’s easy to see why it was seen as a time of death, when the ‘spirits of evil’ were let loose (dejados sueltos) upon the earth.
People reacted to the fear and uncertainty by mocking (burlando) the darkness and the ‘evil spirits’ by dressing up (disfrazándose) and singing songs (always good things to do when you’re frightened!) and by attempting to predict or divine the future (for example: who would, and who would not, survive the winter).
As well as dressing up in costume to mock the evil spirits, another Halloween custom involved going from house to house to ask for food. In the past people gave soul cakes - thought to represent the souls of the dead. More recently, the tradition involves children asking for sweets (British English) or candy (American English) and is known by its American name ‘trick or treat’. The idea of trick-or treat is that the children represent the ‘evil spirits’: they come to the door and an offering is made (a treat is given) to the ‘spirits’ so that they will not do any mischief (travesura) or ‘play a trick’ on the householder.
Another popular Halloween tradition is hollowing out a pumpkin (calabaza), cutting the features of a face into it, and placing a candle inside to make a jack-o-lantern (lámpara de calabaza). These lanterns were either thought to represent the spirits or were used to ward off (frighten away) evil spirits.a bar or nightclub with special Halloween cocktails - sometimes bright green and smoking!
The ‘evil spirits’ also change: in the past, ghosts, witches, warewolves and vampires were most popular; now the fashion is for zombies - the walking dead. One thing, however, never changes - many of us love to be scared. But be careful! Watching too many horror films can give you nightmares (pesadillas - literalmente: ‘yeguas de noche’)
In Britain, Halloween is very close to ‘bonfire night’ (on the 5th November), which is traditionally thebigger celebration, but that’s another story …
nightmares (pesadillas - literalmente: ‘yeguas de noche’)
In Britain, Halloween is very close to ‘bonfire night’ (on the 5th November), which is traditionally the
bigger celebration, but that’s another story …