Spaniards Embrace the Scary Side of American-Style Halloween

“Witches and warlocks” abound, but for some Madrid residents the biggest fright is the thought that the revelry is overshadowing a traditional holiday on Nov. 1
Lucila, a worker at SLUs cafeteria, dressed up as Katrina La Viuda for Halloween. Its something that I identify with, a powerful woman who can be alone, she said. It drew my attention because its a powerful woman, and I wanted to wear it. 
Lucila was one of the three cafeteria staff who dressed up on Halloween, matching the spooky decorations which adorned the cafeteria.
Lucila, a worker at SLU’s cafeteria, dressed up as Katrina La Viuda for Halloween. “It’s something that I identify with, a powerful woman who can be alone,” she said. “It drew my attention because it’s a powerful woman, and I wanted to wear it.” Lucila was one of the three cafeteria staff who dressed up on Halloween, matching the spooky decorations which adorned the cafeteria.
Sophia Adams

Spaniards say they are adapting to the growing popularity of Halloween, a widely celebrated holiday in the United States once only known to Spaniards in movies.

“It’s nice to see all the children in costumes at my door,” said Maria Jesus Castro, a Madrid retiree who has bought chocolate and candy for trick-or-treaters for the last five years. “It’s not something I’ve been used to living here all of my life.”

Convenience stores around the city are lined with a growing selection of  eerie costumes and decorations weeks before the holiday. Clubs in the city start promoting costumed-themed Halloween bashes in advance to attract party-goers, and supermarkets stock more candy. Why is this happening? Spaniards say the number of children celebrating and dressing up has grown thanks to the media and to local schools.

Traditionally, Spain has celebrated only Todos los Santos, or All Saints’ Day, on Nov. 1 when Spaniards would travel to cemeteries to honor their loved ones. The only treats on this holiday were huesos de santo, or saints’ bones, that are sold in bakeries and made of sugar, almond, and egg.

The day before this holiday, a growing number of Spaniards are buying pumpkins, hosting parties, and even dressing up.

“I see so many witches and warlocks around,” said 21-year-old Spanish college student Sandra Gomez de Aguero, who began to celebrate Halloween in primary school as a way to learn English. “I know that a lot of younger kids in kindergarten get taught about Halloween and are allowed to make art about Halloween during English class,” she added.

Patricia Labrado Mata, a 22-year-old college student, started celebrating with a special family dinner when she was a child. “I would dress up as a witch and go out for a hamburger, a traditional American meal,” she said.

As she got older, the celebration had included her friends. “We went to my house and we watched horror movies,” Mata said. When asked where these movies were from she responded, “The vast majority of the horror movies are from America.”

This Halloween, Madrid college students such as Gomez de Aguero have spent weeks debating which club to attend and which costume to wear. “I spent two weeks preparing my witch costume for the club with my friends.”

Children, meanwhile, are on a sugar-high around the city. As Halloween grows in Madrid, so does the candy supply in the apartments of Madrid residents such as Castro, the retiree. “Halloween is not something I was aware of until recently,” she said while sitting with friends at the cafeteria a few days before Halloween. “Being around students I’m hosting in Spain showed me what I have to do for this holiday.”

Castro’s friends agree. “I just started buying candy for the kids recently,” Marie-Carmen Garcia Until said. “Until this year, I only had 4 kids come up to my door. Now, I have at least 20.”

Some older Spaniards disapprove: “The media is so widespread these days that people start to forget a very important holiday, Todos los Santos. My grandchildren included,” Mercedes Perez, a retiree who hosts international students, said.

Aguero’s grandparents feel the same way, “All Saints Day and it’s a day where we try to remember dead members of our family. The oldest ones in our family always say normally, you are celebrating all of the American stuff and forgetting about your relatives,” Aguero said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The NewSLU Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *