Updated: Oct 28, 2019
All Saints' Day. Celebrated in Spain on the 1st of November.
Hello! Welcome to my very first blog!
I don't know about you, but I love this time of year, especially when the air is cold and crisp and the sky is blue, with the sun peering at you so far away that you can hardly feel its heat. The smell of fallen leaves and the crunching and rustling sound when you walk through them. And of course roasted chestnuts!!!!
All of this reminds me of my childhood in Soria, a small city in Castilla y León, Spain. As you can see on the map it's towards the North so it gets very cold in winter, below zero and it snows. I remember one year it snowed in June!!! Brrrrr!
What has made me think of my childhood town is because today, the 1st of November, is a special celebration in Spain. It's All Saint's Day (El Día de Todos los Santos) and it's a National Holiday. It's the day where all Saints are celebrated. On this day people remember the dead and pay respect to their deceased relatives by visiting the cemetery, taking them flowers and cleaning their tombstones. It is a time of religion, rituals and ancient traditions, fire, ghost stories, legends and of course special traditional sweets.
My very favourite are "buñuelos de viento", a deep fried hollow dough made out of eggs and flour stuffed with different types of fillings, custard, cream, chocolate, sweet potato... Mmmmmm! It's torture thinking about them!
We usually bought them from the cake shop called Nueva York, situated in Soria's main street, called El Collao. And it is still there if you fancy a visit, I really recommend it!
Another sweet typical of this festivity is "huesos de Santo" (Saint's bones), I know, not a very appetising name. But they are very tasty if you like marzipan.
They are little rolls of marzipan the size of a small finger traditionally filled with a sweet paste called "dulce de yema" which is made out of egg and sugar. Nowadays you can also get other fillings such as chocolate, coconut, candied pumpkin strands ("cabello de ángel" -angel's hair), etc...
Apart from having these delicious sweets, my favourite part of this festivity was a tradition I took part in in my teenage years, which was thrilling, spooky and has left me with very fond memories.
This tradition takes place on a Mount next to the city of Soria, called El Monte de las Ánimas (Mount of Souls) (See it on Google Earth).
A Spanish writer from the XIX century named Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, wrote a legend about this Mount, set in medieval times, called La Leyenda del Monte de las Ánimas (The Legend of The Mount of Souls). On All Saints' Night my friends and I used to climb up to the Mount of Souls, make a fire, sit around it, play the guitar and read this Legend out loud. The fire lit our faces in the glowing red light, creating shadows behind us. I must admit I use to feel a shiver down my back probably due to the chill in the air and the thrill of listening to the story. I never did see any of the tortured souls the legend speaks of but I never did venture beyond those dark shadows. So who knows...
The Legend speaks of two cousins, Beatriz and Alonso, who are part of a hunting party on the Mount of Souls on All Saints' Day, they must hurry as the night is approaching. Beatriz, who isn't familiar with the traditions of these Castilian lands mocks her cousin Alonso. He explains that any other night he would stay and keep hunting wolves but not on this night. He tells her cousin of how once there was a fierce battle between the Templar knights and the nobles of the land and how on All Saints' Night their troubled souls come to life, terrible things happen to those who are caught on the Mount that night. The hunting party return home cheerfully and chatting away enjoying the heat of the fires and the nice warming food, except Beatriz and Alonso, who are engrossed in their own conversation. Alonso offers Beatriz a gift, she initially refuses to accept it, toying with Alonso's feelings, and finally accepts it. She then says she would give him a token in return but has lost it when they were hunting on The Mount of Souls. She taunts him, as he initially refuses to go and get it, until his wounded pride makes him set off on this terrible and dangerous night. Beatriz is very pleased with herself and retires to her room to spend the night. There time goes by and her cousin hasn't returned. Bells are ringing outside, there are creaks and noises. The doors leading to her bedroom screech and groan all in turn, getting closer and closer to her room. In the crisp morning, with the light shining through her window she is relieved from the terror she felt the night before, until she sees the token she had lost, all bloody next to her. Her face turns as pale as a death mask. The servants find her dead gripping the posts of her bed with horror carved into her features. After this event a hunter who was lost on the Mount on All Saints' Night and has survived tells the tale of what he saw that night, templars and nobles rising from their graves and a beautiful woman with bleeding feet screaming and running around Alonso's grave.
I recommend you read it if you can, as what I have written here is only a summary and lacks the beauty of Bécquer's narrative and imagery.
Last year I bought a version specifically adapted for children by Rosa Navarro Durán. My children loved it and have requested I read it at the Halloween party...
Writing this blog and going through my memories has inspired me to work on a future project specifically for children. I shall keep you posted, you just need to follow my blog!
Here are some links for your further information. I wish you a very happy All Saints' Day!!!