Never let it be said that the Spanish fail to embrace their festivals, and none is more extravagantly celebrated than Halloween, typically a three-day event starting on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas, or Day of the Witches. Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day) to give it it’s correct name, marks the day of the year in which the dead are honoured and, all across Spain, people make their way to family graves in order to tidy up the plots and leave flowers. Finally, Dia de los Muertos (All Souls’ Day) neatly rounds off the whole occasion.
From the old, well-worn rituals of the Festival of the Dead to the modern manifestation of Halloween, the influence of America is quite obvious. For most Spanish children these days, the highlight is not the family gathering to honour its ancestors but a chance to dress up in outlandish costumes for the annual Trick or Treat extravaganza.
In fact, for the Spaniard who is a fancy dress phobic, childhood can be something of a minefield; from the fanciful outfits that characterise Carnival to the more alarming skeletons, ghosts and rotting corpses of Halloween, and the novelty reindeer antlers and Santa hats of Christmas (not to mention the quasi-naval uniforms and bridal gowns that youngsters are obliged to don for their First Communion), childhood in Spain is one giant dressing-up box.
Halloween’s passage from a relatively subdued meditation on the transformative power of death to the colourful, Trick or Treating spectacle it is now has been excellent news for costume manufacturers, giving them at least three annual bites at the cherry. This, of course, is without taking into account the beautifully crafted flamenco dresses that every self-respecting Spanish female – however young – is obliged to don during the local fería. Add local romerías and equestrian festivities such as the Fería de los Caballos, and the annual social calendar offers a great opportunity to explore a wide variety of looks from exotic to elegant.