Halloween in Galicia?
There are multiple stories and theories about how Halloween came to be, what the influence was from Christianity and how other similar traditions are interlaced. This is my favorite.
Halloween as we know it today is a completely commercialized concept. Once upon a time it was an Irish tradition, with Celtic roots, brought by the Irish folks who settled in the United States.
On the 31st of October, All Hallow’s Eve was celebrated: ‘The evening before All Saints Day’. In the original Celtic tradition, Samhain, as they used to call it, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.
They also believed that on this night the souls of the deceased returned to say their farewells to their relatives. People would light bonfires to guide the souls The Way. They would also leave food and sweets to keep the spirits happy. Offerings were made to the Queen of the Demons (Morrigu) and to Dagda, God of life and death.
In the new, commercialized tradition, we still have some major symbols that refer back to the old tradition: there are the pumpkins, fruit of the final harvest; the sweets that we give kids dressed up as a spirit, to keep them happy; we still light bonfires, although nobody remembers that it’s actually to guide the spirits in the right direction.
From Celtic Ireland and later Christianity to the US, from the US through all sorts of modern marketing techniques back to Europe, let’s take a look at what’s happening in Galicia…
Galicia, terra meiga
The original Samhain tradition survived, barely, and currently it is on its way back, gaining popularity fast. Halloween did make it into Galicia, but both Samhain and Halloween are very popular there and the latter is starting to make room for the old chap – apparently the Celtic roots of Galicia have still a strong vote in the matter!
The ancients Celts also used to eat chestnuts on this day. They believed that each chestnut harbored a soul of a deceased person. For each chestnut they ate, one soul would be liberated. Complete families would participate as not participating, they believed, would lead to instant insanity. In Galicia, the tradition of eating chestnuts together is still a famous tradition this time of year!
Creatures of the Night would roam the streets in complete darkness during the procession of the ghosts; an act we can still find in our current tradition and has multiple other legends tied to it.
In Galicia, which is after all called ‘Terra Meiga’ (Land of the Witches), this special evening on the 31st of October is also called ‘Noche de las Brujas’, The Night of the Witches.
We have one week until this night is upon us. It’s time to start sharing with you some of the stories that were told from generation upon generation within my Galician family…
I heard mine from my own mother and in the next couple of days until Halloween, I’ll be sharing them with you in this blog.
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you the story about La Santa Compaña…, beware of walking your Camino to Santiago de Compostela during Samhain without knowing this story! Beware of walking in Galicia in the dark in any other night too… The knowledge I will be sharing, passed on by my ancestors, might just save your life…
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