The phonetic translation of “halloween” looks nothing like it, but after all, it’s a very “North American” holiday. However, Spain has been introduced to the festivities of the last day of October, for better or for worse. Children now hear ghost stories in literature classes, teachers dress up like witches, and of course there is trick-or-treating…with the children saying “trick or treat” in English. comical for us native speakers due to the three hard “r”s in the phrase which don’t exist in Spanish.
Before the introduction of Halloween, the the weekend around the 31st wasn’t deprived of holidays: November 1 is All Saint’s DAy, which involves the purchase of a type of marzipan sweet called “Huesos del Santo” and some circular baked goods called “panalletes” or “buñuelos” with flavors like lemon, coffe, and pine nuts, but above all, bringing flowers to the graveyard to decorate the tumbs of dearly departed family. All Saint’s Day generally means a steady flow of customers in the florists.
But this year, there are more temporary Halloween costume shops selling brightly-colored plastic masks and synthetic-material body suits alongside fake swords and faux bunny ears. And the stream of consumer traffic has been altered by these new islands. THe florists report a significant drop in customers, who perhaps are choosing to spend their money on a costume for their children and candy at El Rincón instead of on bouquets for their grandparents’ graves and panelletes for All Saint’s Day.
I don’t want to imply that Halloween is bad or that dresing up in a costume made-in-China is a horrible moral offense, but I do regret that the delicious looking sweets in the wonderfully traditional candy shop are overshadowed by a plastic pumpkin filled with M&Ms in the new store next door. Halloween is viewed here as a very United Statesian holiday, and it also makes me a bit embarrassed that our greatest holiday influence is one in which children try to get as much candy as they can from their neighbors.
Luckily for me, I won’t miss out on the more traditional festivities of All Saint’s Day; although I don’t think my host mother brings flowers to the graveyard, she did mention something about thsoe Huesos de Santos…