01 November 2010

Fiesta de Tosantos

If you've seen Pedro Almodóvar's wonderful film Volver, you might remember that the opening scene is set in a cemetery where Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) and lots of other women are busy cleaning and decorating the graves of their ancestors.   

Returning to one's home town to pay respects and make ofrendas (offerings, usually in the form of flowers) to deceased relatives is one of the traditions of the Fiesta de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day), which falls on 1 November and is a public holiday in all Catholic countries.  In Spain, florists have their busiest day of the year and in some places (including Cádiz), special parades and processions take place.   Traditional foods consumed today include roast chestnuts (castanadas), roast yams or sweet potatoes (boniatos) and Huesos de Santos (Saints´bones)  - little marzipan cakes.

In other Latin American countries they go a lot further; for example in Mexico the celebrations for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead),  with their skull masks and flamboyantly decorated graves, are world-famous.

Another All Saints’ tradition across Spain is the performing of the play Don Juan Tenorio, written by José Zorrilla. The final act of this portrayal of Don Juan’s choice between salvation or hell is set in a cemetery, with the legendary lover lamenting over his betrayal of his dead sweetheart.

Officially, All Saint's Day is based on the belief that  there is a spiritual communion between the dead - in this case, those who have gone to Heaven - and the living.  The following day, All Souls, commemorates the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and made it through the Pearly Gates.  In Spain it is not specifically linked to Hallowe'en, which has only recently started to become an excuse for kids to dress up as ghouls and ghosties.   No Trick-or-Treaters knocked on our door last night, just as well since I had completely forgotten to stock up on treats!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Volver! Spanish graveyards are so interesting...