What’s Halloween Like in Lugo? Part Two (Cemetery Visits and Saint Bones)

Dear friends, 

Continuing on the Halloween theme from last week, because Halloween isn’t the only holiday observed in the days crossing from October to November. Here, Lucenses have Samain (also spelled Samhain) followed by All Saints Day

On Samain weekend in Lugo, families gather together at cementaries during midday to sweep off the graves, replacing twigs and dirt with multicolored carnations and full bloom mums. Since many in Lugo live in or have family in its surrounding villages, many travel back home on the occasion. Families usually meet to feast and chat together as well, either before or after the visit to the cementerio. 

Unlike Día de los muertos (or día de difuntos), the time spent at a loved one’s grave markedly serious. The people in the graveyard are still and quiet as a sign of respect for others in mourning. I tried to take pictures as inconspicuously as possible, though I didn’t take pictures of the families. Didn’t feel right. 

Samain is rooted in Celtic tradition, particularly in the idea that upon these nights the barrier between the living and the dead eases, thus allowing communication between living and the dead, even predictions. I dug a little deeper into research and found out that ancient celtics would have large bonfires outside, then inside their homes, inviting the “sacred” fire into their homes for “protection” from the winter cold. This makes me miss bonfires and s’mores. 

Blake and I learned more about the ancient celtics from a nearby museum. I was surprised to learn that in the past, the Egyptian gods Anis and Isis were revered here in Lugo, as seen in their symbols in picture below of a temple foundation. We saw carefully preserved urns, where one placed the ashes from cremated bodies, and baked tiles, which were used to tomb the urns underground. 

When I asked the museum curator about modern day funerals in Lugo, I was told that Lucenses plan funerals as social affairs. They care about how many priests speak, who does and who does not attend, and the number of flowers.  I wonder if the business helps distract from the weight of the death and mourning.  

Out of curiosity, I decided to then ask my students if they’d rather be buried or cremated. Instead of picking one of the options, many of my students said they’d rather be planted with a tree or a pot of flowers. A lovely idea. (So long as one doesn’t think about the bones in the roots or what it might mean if the tree or plant dies…). Me? Cremate me first. Then you can just spread my ashes in a garden or something. 

Then, on All Saints Day, Lucenses go to mass. I celebrated by eating huesos de santos, a pastry called saint bones. Ah, chewing on the bones of a saint. Weird, right?

Blake and I spent Halloween with friends at a bar that was celebrating Dia de los muertos. While other people dressed up, we decided to just be ourselves. 

And thus ends our Halloween adventures abroad. For this year. 

Until next week,