File image of Día de Todos los Santos in Jimera de Líbar in Malaga province. Karl Smallman
Why is 1st November a public holiday in Spain?

Why is 1st November a public holiday in Spain?

It is an important day on the calendar for people up and down the country and marks Día de Todos los Santos

SUR in English


Tuesday, 31 October 2023, 09:15


Across the whole of Spain, the 1st November is an important date on the calendar and is a public holiday across the country.

It is Día de Todos los Santos or All Saints' Day and in other Latin countries, Day of the Dead, but it isn't a macabre event in any way. It is the day when families remember loved ones who have passed away and get together in cemeteries to visit the resting places of their relatives. Many spend a few days beforehand cleaning, painting and laying fresh flowers around the niche in preparation for the special day.

More flowers are sold at this time of the year than any other and the cemeteries become adorned with colourful floral offerings.

Families may take food to enjoy at the cemetery, especially the traditional sweet cakes such as 'huesos de santos' (saints' bones), 'borrachuelos' (drunken cakes) and 'buñuelos' (fried pastries filled with chocolate or cream; it was believed with each one eaten, a soul was saved from purgatory).

Many traditions are dying out, there used to be three consecutive masses held on 2 November, one for the souls trapped in purgatory and the other two for the families of the dead. It was also usual to go to the theatre on the day and watch 'Don Juan Tenorio' by José Zorilla, mainly because the last act is held in a cemetery and the dialogue is about death.

In other Latin countries where 1st November is celebrated as Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), families remember their dead relatives in much the same way.

In Mexico, the celebrations for the Día de los Muertos' are a mixture of Aztec and Chritian traditions. 'La Catrina' (the elegant skeleton) is an iconic figure representing death and is depicted by a female skeleton, usually grinning broadly, wearing an elegant, colourful dress. Elaborate altars are set up and decorated with candles and everyday objects that the deceased person used.

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