This time of the year is the end of the harvest season; the days start getting shorter, the weather gets colder… In short, the end of octubre (October)-beginning of noviembre (November) marks the transition into otoño (autumn) and invierno (winter). It’s time for Samaín and other celebrations.

 We don’t celebrate Halloween as such in Spain, although in recent years it’s common to see both kids and adults dressing up on October 31 and Halloween parties being advertised. This is not a traditional celebration, though; but I guess any excuse is good to party! There are, however, some traditional celebrations:



Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) & Día de Difuntos (Day of the Dead)- 1 & 2 de noviembre

These two days are all about remembering those who passed away. Most of the activity takes place on November 1, which is a national festivo (public holiday). On this day, people visit their loved ones in cemeteries and take flowers to them. Christianity has been honouring the dead on these dates from the 9th century, but there are older traditions…

Samaín (from the Irish Samhain)

It’s an old Celtic celebration marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was a time when the limits between this world and the next one got blurred, meaning that spirits could cross over to this world more easily. In Galicia there was a tradition of carving calabazas (pumpkins) and leaving them on the roads in order to scare passers by. People would also leave fires on all night, as well as food, for the spirits. Since 1990 there have been attempts to recover this old tradition.

Samaín pumpkin carving workshop

Pumpkin carving workshop.

Magosto (chestnut party)

Linked to the end of the harvest season, magosto is celebrated mostly in northern Spain, as well as Portugal. The main elements of a magosto are castañas (chestnuts) and fire to roast them. People would gather around a bonfire, roast castañas (other foods too, but chestnuts are essential), sing and dance. It was also the perfect opportunity to taste the new vino (wine). There is not fixed date to hold a magosto. It could be any time between mid-October and mid-November. Usually, the last day to celebrate a magosto is November 11, festivity of St. Martin. Magostos apart, it’s common to see chestnut sellers on the streets once autumn starts. So, when you are out for a walk you can just buy a cone full of warm, freshly-roasted chestnuts. Delicious and a great way to warm your hands on cold days!


Samaín - roasted chestnuts

You can buy roasted chestnuts on the street.

Today’s Spanish words

Would you like to know about other Spanish celebrations? Check these posts:

El Carnaval, about the Carnival celebrations that usually take place around the end of February or beginning of March.

Feliz Navidad, about the celebration of Christmas in Spain.

Semana Santa, about the Easter celebrations.


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¡Buen Camino!

¡Feliz Navidad!

¡Feliz Navidad!

The winter months are typically a quieter period on the Camino de Santiago. There are few pilgrims walking and many albergues are closed. However, some people prefer to walk around this time of the year. For them, and for those who would like to know how we celebrate la Navidad (Christmas) in Spain, I wrote this post. ¡Feliz Navidad!

First of all, you should be aware that there are a few festivos (public holidays). Shops will be closed those days; you should keep it in mind, in case you need to buy something. I’ll list the important dates and explain a bit about them:


In December

  • 22 de diciembre – La lotería de Navidad (Christmas lottery) also known as “el gordo” (the fat one!). This is the unofficial start of Christmas celebrations. Almost everyone in Spain plays this lottery and it’s a huge event: TV, radio, people on the street… all you’ll hear about is lotería!


  • 24 de diciembre – Nochebuena (Christmas Eve; literally “the good night”). It’s not festivo, although shops will close earlier than usual in the evening. This is because families get together for a big, special dinner. Traditionally, this is the time to be with family, at home, so make sure you plan your dinner ahead: expect everything, including restaurants, to be closed from 7.00pm.


  • 25 de diciembre – Navidad (Christmas Day). It’s festivo and everything will be closed. Family will gather again, for lunch on this occasion. Both Nochebuena and Navidad are days spent mostly with family, at home. People don’t go out much, although things are changing a bit. Again, you’ll need to plan ahead what you’re going to eat throughout the day, as it will be hard to find anything open.


We don’t have just one typical Christmas dish for these days. What people eat for Nochebuena and Navidad differs a lot from one region to another. But we have sweets in common: it doesn’t matter where you are, you can expect to find turrón (almond nougat), mazapán (marzipan) and polvorón (some sort of crumbly shortbread), the three main Christmas treats.




  • 28 de diciembre – día de los Inocentes. It’s the Spanish version of April Fools’ Day. So watch out for pranks and funny news. Otherwise, a regular day.


New Year’s Eve

  • 31 de diciembre – Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve; literally, “the old night”). Similarly to Nochebuena, this is not festivo, but shops will close early again. There’s another big, special dinner. But Nochevieja is more about partying and celebrating. It’s common for people to go out for dinner, with family or friends and then party into the next day.


At midnight, you can go to the town main square and eat 12 uvas (grapes), one with each campanada (stroke) of the clock. You can also do this at home, as all TV channels will show a clock striking 12 (traditionally, they show Puerta del Sol in Madrid). If you manage it, you will have good luck in the new year.


Another widespread tradition to bring you luck in the new year is to wear red underwear. That’s why you will see a lot of it displayed in shops for a couple of weeks before the New Year.


The New Year

  • 1 de enero – día de Año Nuevo (New year). If you went out partying after your uvas, chances are you won’t go to sleep until the morning (9.00am at least). Año Nuevo is usually a very quiet day, because many people will be sleeping most of the day and it’s also festivo, so everything is closed.


  • 6 de enero – día de Reyes (Epiphany or the day of the Wise Men). Traditionally, Spanish children get their presents from the three Wise Men. They arrive on January 5, when they parade around Spanish towns. Then, during the night, they leave their presents. So, January 5 is not festivo, but there will be parades in most towns. January 6 is festivo and shops will be closed. A typical treat for this day is roscón, a special cake.


You can watch some short clips of the lottery draw, the campanadas and the Wise Men parade in this presentation:

And that’s it! What do you think?



Today’s Spanish words


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¡Buen Camino & Feliz Navidad!