How to Commemorate All Saints' Day in Spain

Families in Spain visit graves of their loved ones

Don Juan Tenorio play on All Saints' Day in Spain
El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video.Creative Commons

You've heard of Halloween, and you've likely heard of Mexico's Day of the Dead. But what does Spain do at this time of year?

While Spaniards are celebrating Halloween more and more every year, the real date to remember is November 1. This is All Saints' Day, or Día de Todos los Santos in Spanish.

Here's a bit of a primer on how the Spanish celebrate All Saints' Day. It's a public holiday in that schools and many workplaces have the day off, but there's a lot more to it than that. If you'll be in Spain this year on November 1, here's what you can expect from this solemn holiday.

When is All Saints' Day in Spain?

All Saints' Day is celebrated in Spain on the same day as in the rest of the world—on November 1. However, celebrations here are more common than in many other countries, particularly in the English-speaking world.

How do the Spanish Celebrate All Saints' Day?

The most obvious sign that it is All Saints' Day is that the graveyards seem to be unusually full of flowers. All Saints' Day is when the Spanish remember their dearly departed and bring flowers to the graves of their deceased loved ones.

If you can make it to a performance of Don Juan Tenorio on All Saints' Day, take advantage of the opportunity. The play is the most famous (and the most romantic) story about the mythical Don Juan, pictured above, and is performed each year on All Saints' Day throughout Spain.

There are a few traditional sweets that the Spanish eat on All Saints' Day. The most common are the so-called huesos de santo (literally, "saint's bones"), which is made of marzipan and sweetened egg yolk. Another treat you'll find are buñuelos de viento, puffy fried balls of dough filled with pastry cream, whipped cream, or chocolate.

There are also plenty of local delicacies that you'll find throughout Spain on All Saints' Day. In Catalonia, for example, the locals eat castañada, a meal that consists of chestnuts, sweets called panellets (small marzipan cakes or cookies), and sweet potato. Note that this meal is often eaten the day before All Saints' Day these days.

Note that all shops will be closed on All Saints' Day in Spain. This is common on all public holidays in Spain. However, most bars and restaurants should still be open, so you'll be able to find a place to eat or drink.

Which Is the Most Interesting Spanish City to Be in During All Saints' Day?

The most interesting city to be in for All Saints' Day is Cadiz, without a doubt. Why?

Well, All Saints' Day in Cadiz is a little different. In this Andalusian coastal city, it's known as "Tosantos" rather than "Todos los Santos" due to the fast-paced local accent that's infamous for dropping letters and even entire syllables.

But the fun doesn't just end with the unique local name for the event. On All Saints' Day, the gaditanos (locals of Cadiz) do wacky things like dress up rabbits and suckling pigs in the market, as well as make dolls out of fruit. And the festivities aren't just limited to Cadiz capital—the whole surrounding region of the same name gets involved as well, and the festivities last all week. As a result, this usually solemn commemoration becomes one of the most bizarre and fun festivals in Spain.

Now that you know a little bit more about All Saints' Day in Spain, you'll have a deeper understanding of what, exactly, this day means to many Spaniards (as well as why many stores and other local businesses are closed despite it being a seemingly normal weekday). If anything, it's a refreshing antidote to the late-night parties that are becoming more and more typical on Halloween, as well as a way for Spanish families to spend time together and honor their lost loved ones.

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