The night of October 31st is one of the most traditional and special in Galicia, and no, it’s not that we celebrate Halloween, this is where we celebrate “Samaín”. You will of course be surprised by the great similarity to the celebration that made North Americans world famous.
Samaín, a tradition deeply rooted in Galicia.
One should not succumb to the mistake of thinking that Galicians are copying Halloween night and adopting this American tradition. The name Samaín comes from the Celtic word “Samhain”, which means “end of summer”, and this is exactly what the Celts celebrated at the transition from October to November. For the Celts there were only two seasons of the year, the light and the dark and the celebration of Samaín mark exactly the beginning of the latter and the end of the harvest season.
The night of the dead, fairies and goblins.
The night of October 31st is traditionally the night when it is easiest to move between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It is a date when both worlds can coexist in the same space. But on the night of Samaín you can meet fairies who bring you good luck, or you can meet a goblin, a kind of extremely mischievous goblin who doesn’t exactly bring good omens.
Although the tradition of emptying, decorating and lighting pumpkins seems very cute to us, and we Galicians now practice it too, you should know that it was originally in Galicia that the skulls of enemies in battle were taken and placed on the walls and lit. Something like a serious warning to the seafarers.
The Holy Accompaniment.
The Santa Compaña or Procession of Souls is one of the most famous Galician legends and, as we say here, also “regrettable” (goosebumps are the order of the day). It is a figure that we can also find under other names in Asturias, Ireland, Scotland and Wales . As you all know, it is a procession of souls carrying lights (lamps, candles or the like) and coming to announce the impending death of a person. If you are unfortunate enough to come across them, you must join the soul community unless you are familiar with any of the rituals to protect yourself. It is a phenomenon typical of rural areas, forests and roads.
When the Catholic Church settled in Galicia, it considered samaín to be another pagan ritual and forbade its celebration. Instead, the celebration of “All Saints’ Day” on November 1st and the celebration of the “Believing Dead” on November 2nd were launched in memory of the deceased who remain in purgatory. As with other rites deeply rooted in our culture, however, Samain managed to survive the passage of time and reach our days. It is the same thing that happened in Mexico with the “Day of the Dead”, a pre-Hispanic tradition that is also of pagan origin and has not only reached our time, but is also celebrated in style. In Galicia, the Samaín continued to be celebrated in rural areas until the 1980s, and now the tradition is being restored for all of Galicia, almost completely displacing the Halloween parties that tried to copy the all-American model.
The apples in the water.
If you were surprised to learn about the origin of Samaín and its similarities to Halloween, it might make you even more aware that one of the most popular activities in the United States is celebrating Halloween and putting apples in with your mouth Picking a basin full of water (apple bobbing) also came from the Celts and they practiced it as a ritual to predict the future.
Trick or treat.
Well, while the title of this article may have led you to error and you believe that the “trick or treating” was originally attributed to Halloween, we must tell you that neither is it, since during the Celtic celebrations it is the Druids were going from house to house asking for food to offer their gods.
The possible explanation.
The theory that would explain the coincidence of the festivities of Samaín in Galicia and Halloween in the United States seems to come from the hands of the Irish and Scots who immigrated to America in the 18th and 19th centuries and introduced this custom and that both are of Celtic origin – and have this in common with the Galicians ..
Of course, it is also conceivable that the export of the festival was the responsibility of an emigrant who had left Galicia directly, as Zapato Veloz sang: “There is a Galician on the moon who has come from Ferrol … and after a week conquered the planet “How could he not come to America to throw a party.