1st - All Saint's Day - is a very important national
holiday in Spain as it is a
commemoration of the dead when Spanish families tend to head to the cemeteries
to clean and place flowers on tombs of deceased relatives as a reminder that
they may have passed but they have not been forgotten. In Xàbia, the
Ayuntamiento lays on special free buses throughout the day to the municipal
cemetery in Les Valls for the roads around the area will be crammed with traffic.
Understandably, it is an emotional time for all.
Saint's Day was established in the 7th century by Pope
Boniface IV to ensure that all the saints could
be honoured and the date chosen was May 13th. Three
centuries later Pope Gregory III campaigned successfully
to move the feast to November 1st, continuing the church's
policy of incorporating non-Christians traditions in
order neutralise ancient customs such as the Celtic
festival of Samhain and coerce more people
into the Catholic faith. It was a time for fasting and
holding vigils but over time it became more about remembering
all the dead.
association with the night before - Halloween - developed
through the determination of the church to try and put
a lid on the fascination with death, the supernatural
and the concept of wandering spirits by declaring that
such spirits were evil forces associated with the devil.
Thus, Halloween developed into the scary festival
that is today with witches, evil spirits and demons.
with many of special feast days in Spain, there are
several special dishes associated with Todos Los Santos.
The 'pennellets' are small almond cakes that are normally
accompanied with a glass of muscatel wine and they originate
in the custom of leaving home-made cakes amongst other offerings
with the body of the deceased. Bakeries and other shops
will also be offering traditional snacks such as 'Huesos
de Santos' - the saint's bones - which are tubes of
marzipan filled with a sticky yellow paste made from
beaten egg yolks and sugar and 'Buñuelos
de Viento' - Puffs of Wind - which are doughnuts sprinkled
with cinnamon and sugar.
tradition is to see a performance of Don Juan Tenorio,
a famous play written by José Zorrilla and first
published in 1844. Theatre has played an important part
of All Saint's Day since the Middles Ages when a ceremony
called the 'Dance of the Dead' was performed in which
the figure of Death went in search of various characters
accompanied by his retinue of tormented souls. Zorrilla's
play tells the story of a legendary hero struggling
to exist in a world full of gambling, womanizing and
duels and opens with a bet to see who will do more harm
in a year. He appears to be succeeding but his soul
becomes more and more lost and by the end of the performance
he must face his ghosts and only love will be able to
save him from eternal hell.