If all the shops are closed and the graveyards are filled with flowers you know that it’s All Saints’ Day, a public holiday celebrated in Spain on the 1st November. The festival to honour all Saints, both known and unknown was moved from it’s original date in May back in the 10th Century, as the Popes wanted to neutralize the Pagan autumn festivals which turned into Halloween. This was believed to be the time when boundaries between living and dead disappeared, and people visit the graves of relatives to decorate them elaborately with offerings of flowers. You can attend services of the Eucharist Catholic Mass and join a procession to the graves without having relatives there.
The feast day of Todos los Santos is particularly celebrated for a week of festivities in Cádiz province, in Andalucía, where it’s called ‘Tosantos’. It’s well worth the trip along the peninsula to get there, as you can also explore the beautiful plazas and beaches of Cádiz. The locals (Gaditanos) dress up rabbits and pigs in the market, with candle lit processions along colourfully decorated streets. Roast chestnuts and anise liquors amongst other delicious local foods and wines for sale in the marketplaces of surrounding villages.
Some of the traditional sweets you can try are the ‘saint’s bones’ Huesos de Santo, made of marzipan and ‘dulce de yema’ (cream made from egg yolks cooked with a sugar syrup). The legend of the chestnut seller Maria, la castañera, inspired the celebration of “La Castanada,” chestnuts roasted along with el boniato (sweet potatoes) and small almond cakes, called panellets, are also enjoyed. The ‘buñuelos de viento,’ or ‘puffs of wind,’ are like a small doughnut fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, sometimes filled custard (crema pastelera).
Try to see a performance of José Zorrilla’s classic play Don Juan Tenorio, the romantic telling of the Don Juan myth which has been performed in Spanish Theatres for over a century. The final act is set in a cemetery, as the legendary lover begs for forgiveness from his abandoned dead fiancee, choosing between salvation and damnation. There’s a little of the saint and the sinner in all of us.