Halloween Origins and Halloween in Spain

Jack-o'-lanterns carved from pumpkins and lit with tea lights. A pumpkin/jack o lantern. Pumpkins are the symbol of Halloween in the US. (Photo Courtesy Common Creatives.)

Every October 31, millions of US citizens dress up and enjoy Halloween. But do they really know where Halloween comes from? If reading this, ask yourself if you know Halloween origin. The answer is probably no.

To find the origin of Halloween, we need to go back to prehistoric times, specifically to the Iron Age, and travel to Europe. During this time, most of Europe was inhabited by lots of little populations, all of them with their own traditions and rituals.

The Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, what now is Galicia (where I am from), Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Man Island and the region of Bretagne in France were inhabited by the Celts for many years, leaving an important heritage in this territories as we will see.

Like other tribes, the Celts had their own rituals and traditions, all of them with a really strong religious content. The most important holiday for the Celts was the Samhain, which also was the most important Pagan holiday in Europe before Christianity arrived. Samhain takes place during the night of October 31 to November 1. They believe that during this time the world of dead is opened to the world of the alive. This holiday also meant the end of the year in the Celt’s calendar and also the end of the harvest season.

This holiday was kept alive in Ireland for hundreds of years until it was brought to the US by the Irish immigrants during the late 1800s and became what now is known as Halloween.

Halloween is a really important holiday in the US and people really like dressing up, going to costume parties and going trick or treating… But, how is it in Spain?

In Spain, Halloween is more important for religious people. This is because of the Celtic belief of the mixing worlds of the alive and dead is still believed by people today. On November 1, All Saints’ Day takes place. This holiday can be compared with the Day of Dead in Mexico. During this day, people go to cemeteries or tombs to visit their friends and family. For non-religious people, like me, this day isn’t a big thing; it’s just a holiday and a day without school.

During the last few years, the United State’s Halloween traditions have arrived in Spain. Many people try to imitate what people do here like dressing up and costume parties. The main difference is no one goes trick or treating, but people are still dressed up in the streets.

From my point of view, it’s really sad that people need to copy other cultures especially in Spain. We have our own cultures such as Samhain, and knowing that Halloween has its origins in Samhain, I think people do this, especially tennagers, because most of them think that everything from the US is cooler.



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