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Halloween in The Canary Islands: Among Souls And 'Finaos'
Belkys Rodríguez Blanco
Samhain festival marks the end of summer and harvesting season. By the end of October, the darker period of the year approaches stealthily. The Celts believed that the border between our world and the 'great beyond' merged and both good and evil souls could easily trespass the boundaries. Good souls were worshipped and evil ones had to be expelled at any price. Some say that special clothing and maskst were worn to keep evil souls away.
And that is how Halloween started: a pagan festival also called Witches´ Night, Death's Night or Deceased's Eve. Today the modern festival with costumes and parties is a mix between the Celtic tradition and the Christian All Hallow's Day (November 1). Children go from door to door to get candy, people light bonfires, visit haunted houses and tell scary stories. It is a terrifying night coloured in black, orange and red. The bravest ones organise feasts on the graves of their ancestors.
Even though in Spain it is considered by some an 'invasing festival' because of the American series and films, there are actually many Celtic traditions that include souls, pumpkins and candles. In the Canary Islands a group of men leaded by the 'oldest ranchero' gathers during this festival to sing songs about souls, saints' lifes and miracles. In Gran Canaria the 'Ranchos de Ánimas' became popular in San Mateo, San Nicolás, Ingenio, Valsequillo and Teror municipalities. They sing improvised songs ('coplas' and 'desechas') inside a house to honour the deceased relatives. This primitive worship to the death has remained as a Christian tradition.
Halloween, Witches´ Night or 'Finaos': three different names for a festival during which people eat almonds, walnuts, chestnuts and recall with anecdotes those who passed away. What matters most is to enjoy this special evening when pagan and Christian traditions merge and good souls expell the devil ones. Do not forget to light up the pumpkin because darkness is coming!
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