Well, everything has been stuffed back into the upper cabinet in a big sack like a bag of bones, and the Halloween season has finally come to an end. Thank God. I need another 365 days to recover. And to think that it’s one of my favorite days of the year.
Years ago, no one celebrated the terror-filled day practically at all. That makes sense because Halloween is not a Spanish tradition, much to the disappointment of those back home who feel that everything American should be core-curriculum in other cultures. “What do you mean they don’t celebrate Halloween?” I have heard on more than one occasion. “What are they retarded or something?”
“No. They just aren’t Irish.” Which of course produces a whole slew of reactions which have nothing to do with what I said.
The fact is, nowadays, the younger Spanish generations do whip it up on this day. More than ever. But it has been a development as recent as iPhones. Back in October of 1991, the festivity was even more remote to the poor Spaniards, mostly because they didn’t understand why we celebrated it. Still, they enjoyed my parties and didn’t care how they dressed as long as they had enough to drink.
Then there was the issue of a jack-o-lantern. I remember begging the fruit-stand guy at the supermarket to find a pumpkin for me to stab, disembowel and disfigure, and the guy produced something large, gray and oblong which reminded me of a tick that had been parasiting on a hippo for a week. The poor fruit looked like it had been dead for several years. “What the hell do you want me to do with that?” I gawked.
Well, I did with it what I could, and crafted an illuminated monster so grotesque it actually worked perfectly with the spirit of the evening. I fared little better in the following years as markets rarely had a ready supply of pumpkins.
At some point, though, someone caught on to the idea that importing this festivity of sorts (when you think about it, there really is not satisfactory word to describe exactly what kind of special day it is…because “holiday”, I’m sorry, does not suffice.) and especially saw there was a lucrative angle there that had been overlooked. Naturally, for any business to thrive what you need is demand, and that is where people like me came into play, I’m afraid to say.
In our attempt to bring our pupils closer to the English-speaking world, we used Halloween as a cultural bridge. We could also try to use some fine structures in the meantime. And I hate to admit, we’ve done a pretty good job of it. Of course, what can you expect? The concept is just ripe for widespread acceptation among young kids: get dressed up in scary costumes, pretend you are a monster for a few hours, and haul in a nice bag of candy to boot. Not bad, when you think about it.
At the school where I work, on more than one occasion I have encountered resistance towards the commercialized pagan tradition that is penetrating the young Spanish mind. This is no exaggeration. I have literally exited a class only to cross paths with a priest, who was on his way in and prepared to remind those innocent striplings that what those days were all about was All Saints’ Day, a real Catholic holy day, not holiday, mind you. Fair enough, until I tell them that Halloween means “The Eve of All Saints’ Day” and that the feast’s origins go back two-thousand years. But that makes no difference to them. It’s pagan!
I can certainly feel for the Spanish wanting to preserve their own traditions and I understand the reservations of some of them to want to reject odd influences from abroad. And I have to admit that there is something contrived about the way it is celebrated here. And I would love to do something about stopping this rising tide where flower store owners who otherwise could not give two hoots about the day are urging their customers to get their pumpkins quick while they last. I mean, it’s just a bit over the top. But then again, there are a couple of factors that make the fight both pointless and absurd. I’ll tell you about them later!