Friday, November 18, 2011

Spooky Samain

When asked to tell my students a little about Halloween in America, I realized that I actually had no idea what the history entailed! (I've found that this is actually not such an infrequent occurrence when students ask me questions about American culture!) It turns out that the origins of this spooky holiday are rooted in Celtic tradition--a heritage common to both Galicia and the United States. In Celtic times, Samain was principally a harvest festival noting the end of long summer days and the beginning of short winter days. The literature at school also mentioned bonfires and masks and the dead. Later, in the heyday of the Catholic world, Samain was replaced by All Saints Day, which was precluded by All Hallow's Eve. Its is from linguistic deletion of All Hallow's Eve that we get the modern English title. Although Halloween is a much-embraced commercial holiday in America, it is relatively unknown in Spain as a whole. However, in a soul-searching trend to to distinguish its unique origins, Galicia is staging a Samain comeback. While you won't see any aisles of the supermarkets filled with discount candy or tiny heathens roaming the streets, I think that my Instituto did a great job decorating!

Catholic tradition also proved prevalent in Galicia when I stumbled upon a peaceful cemetery full of mourners, candles, and flowers.

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