Trick or Treat

Yesterday, Halloween arrived in Valencia. And this year, it seemed to look more like back home than last year. Not only was there more Halloween candy in the stores, but the streets of Benimachlet were teeming last night. Full up with zombies, ghosts, devils and kitty cats. And this year our local bars and cafes went all out with decorations.

Trick or treating was happening in the building – either unlike last year or people were afraid to let the kids knock on their crazy American’s neighbor’s door. But this year we were in.

Do I love Halloween? Yes I do. As a kid this was a huge holiday in our house. My Dad would come home from work early and decorate our front porch with some scary scheme he had been cooking up and building in the garage. Our doorbell would be hooked up to scary music and random loud sounds that ensured there would be tears by some of the younger ghosts and goblins on our block. My Dad was already dubbed a scary dude on a Tuesday in April by all of my friends. At Halloween? He became terrifying. Kids would dare each other to ring our door bell. But my parents handed out good candy so they’d take the risk.

Jeff was out and came home at 8pm.

‘You gotta go out there. It’s packed with kids trick or treating.’

So we did and what fun to see. It made me miss my kids, and had us recounting Halloweens past and some of their costumes and antics. The best costumes were always homemade and took weeks to put together. And the best Halloweens were rainy, lending a spooky air to the festivities as the kids went door to door.

In Snoqualmie, adults would have cauldrons, complete with dry ice smoke, of something ‘brewing’ in their driveways. And parents were given cups of it to fortify themselves from the cold and the screaming, sugar amped kids running around. There we hay rides for those who didn’t want to walk. Generally, a festive vibe permeated the entire village.

I had always thought Halloween was a holiday that started in the UK during a plague, then made its way to the US on some Pilgrim’s ship. We do have our legend of Icabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. But it seems that Halloween’s genesis goes back further and it’s origins are a big broader than my Anglo-Saxon bias.

Halloween dates back to pagan times. The Gaels celebrated it. And for the Celts of Galicia it was their New Years Eve. It’s when the the veil between the living and the dead is lifted and the two can interact. Hence all the scary costumes and the like. Not much place for the ‘sexy nurse’ thing back then.

Somewhere in the last 1000 years, as per usual, the Catholic church decided that they needed to temper down this frivolity and evil doings, so they moved ‘All Saints Day’ from May to the day after Halloween. And All Saints Day in Spain is a national holiday. No stores open today.

In Latin America, All Saints Day is celebrated as The Day of the Dead. But it’s essentially the same things as here. It’s the day when people return to their villages, or the villages from whence their family came, and they tend the graves of those who have passed. It’s a solemn day and this morning when we woke up to complete silence we could audibly tell. No dog barking, not a person on the street. Cars were few and far between. Our building hasn’t been this quiet since August.

Last week I made reservations for us at a local Mexican restaurant for their Dia de los Muertos celebration. Adding one more thing to our cultural repertoire.

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