Japi Jaloguín: How to Celebrate Halloween in Spain

Halloween isn’t anywhere near as widely celebrated in Spain as it is in the Anglosphere (and especially in the U.S.), but, thanks to globalization (sorry, everyone), it’s gaining traction as a worldwide favorite holiday. In Spain, at the very least you’ll find scattered decorations, the occasional invitation to a costume party, and a smattering of costumes roaming the streets. Here are nine more ways to have a ghoulishly good time on Halloween in Spain.

1. Only scary costumes allowed
Forget about dressing as your favorite Game of Thrones character or a risqué bunny — in Spain, the only way to dress on Halloween is scary. Vampires, witches, zombies, devils, skeletons, and ghosts are all fair game, and the more blood and dark makeup the better…apparently even if you’re a sweet five-year-old. Leave the funny/cute costumes for Carnaval in February.

Who knew 7-year-olds could be so terrifying?

Who knew seven-year-olds could be so terrifying?

2. Stock up on cheap chino accessories
When you’re on a student or auxiliar budget, there’s no better place in the world than chinos, the discount stores with a politically incorrect name that offer basically everything you could possibly need. And they’re a great source for wigs, makeup, costumes, and other Halloween accessories for creating the perfect quick and easy Halloween outfit.

3. Don’t forget the candy
Just because you can’t go trick-or-treating doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to candy. Four years ago in Spain, my best friend and I loaded up on €12 of candy and had a Halloween feast at my apartment. It was fantastic.

4. Share the history and tradition of Halloween with your students
If you’re an auxiliar de conversación, live up the “culture” part of the North American Language & Culture Assistants title by creating a fun PowerPoint presentation for your students to learn what the holiday is all about. Obviously I had to sneak in a few photos of my friends and I in costume. Here’s the presentation I created two years ago:

5. Find a ridiculous performance of Rocky Horror
Okay, not a Spain-wide activity, but one of my favorite Halloweens in Spain was spent attending a live performance of The Rocky Horror Show, complete with Spanish translation of its dialogue and badly-pronounced English renditions of the musical’s songs. Tony worthy? No siree, but it sure was a blast, particularly because I was joined by a good high school friend and fellow Rocky Horror veteran.

6. Carve jack-o-lanterns with your niños
It just wouldn’t be Halloween without pumpkin carving, so share the tradition with your students. Last year, my school decided we’d get one pumpkin for every two grades — about 140 kids. I thought it would be a total disaster, as these kids seriously lack in patience, but they actually had a great time, as did I.

Orange pumpkins are so last century.

Orange pumpkins are so last century.

7. Seek out an Irish pub
Whatever the Anglo-Saxon holiday, you’re likely to find something fun going on at an Irish pub, and every Spanish city has its fair share of those. Remember to get to know local Spanish bars on other days of the year as well if you really want to experience Spain, but there’s no harm in occasionally hitting up the expat hang-outs, especially on All Hallows’ Eve.

8. Watch all your Halloween favorites
No matter where you are in the world, there’s nothing like turning off the lights, curling up in bed, and watching your favorite horror movie or Boy Meets World Halloween special. Need some inspiration?

9. Have a Halloween disco party in your school gym
Well, at least that’s what we basically did last year. After the students paraded around the gym grade-by-grade in their gruesome costumes and my first and second graders performed the world’s most talented version of “Thriller,” the music started, and there ain’t no party like a Spanish elementary school party. Conga lines and Gangnam Style everywhere.

I miss these spooky kids.

I miss these spooky kids.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Halloween in Spain, the U.S., or wherever you are in the world?

12 Responses

  1. Gammy says:

    I really enjoyed that! The picture of you with your students is a keepsake! So cute! Love you!

  2. Oh, Spain and their skewed vision of the greatest holiday. My boss last year forbade Halloween, and this year she dressed up and handed out candy and scolded me for not bringing in a pumpkin! I even saw restaurants full of pumpkins and cobwebs!

    • Kirstie says:

      Well that’s quite a turnaround. Not that I generally support our culture invading others’, but I can’t help but love that Halloween is getting bigger around the world!

  3. Pedro says:

    Halloween is one of the things that have been introduced in Spain in the last years because of the north american films and TV series.

    when i was a child there was no halloween….now it’s famous amongst children, although mature and old people don’t really care about it, above all if those people are really Catholic, you know, the Catholic Church hates Halloween and sees it as something that comes from the devil, and still there are priests who preach against it.

    one of the last times that i went to church (don’t remember whether a wedding or baptizm) the priest did preach against Santa Claus as a commercial and foreign thing, and that us Spaniards must keep our tradition of giving gifts only on the sixth day of January.

  4. Pedro says:

    a terrible update of my comment above!! this is what the Archbishop of Toledo has just said about Halloween a couple of hours ago:

    http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2013/11/01/52739e250ab740023e8b458a.html

    in case you don’t understand….he says that it’s pagan and has bad feelings…..that people’s interest is just to scare others…..that it makes you move away from the faith, etc

    • Kirstie says:

      Too harsh! Nobody ever claimed Halloween was a day to connect with God! Sure, it has religious origins, but it’s just a bit of good, secular fun!

      • Pedro says:

        well the good and refreshing thing is that less people follow that rubbish preached by the Catholic Church. i already stopped believing what they say long ago.

        Halloween is a nice fiesta to enjoy, no more to say, jaja!

  5. I actually saw quite a few more cute costumes in Barcelona this year than in previous years, especially on kids. Most of them were still scary, but I saw a fair number of princesses too.

    Irish bars are the perfect place to look for parties, and a lot of the big clubs put on Halloween parties too now. Any excuse for a party!

  6. Alex says:

    Haha my Irish Pub was the first in our city to celebrate Halloween, too funny. And #1 is the same in Germany, no matter how many times I try to explain to them otherwise, they don’t get it.

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