All Saints Day and Halloween in Portugal

Cleaning work, ©nSeika/Flickr

Cleaning work, ©nSeika/Flickr

In Portugal the day of Halloween is officially the last day of summer and people greet each other by saying ‘Samhain Blessings’ (‘samhain’ means ‘summer’s end’ in Portuguese). Formally the Portuguese do not celebrate Halloween as a holiday but they do have All Saints Day on November 1st and nevertheless there are some families coming from other countries who keep Halloween traditions.

The Halloween traditions of today are based on pagan pre-Christian ones stemming from the times of the Celts. These traditions were taken to America with the first settlers and now it’s trying to make its way back to Europe. Let’s see how Halloween deals with Portugal.

The origins of All Saints Day

In the beginning All Saints Day was celebrated on the 13th of May but later, around the 10th century it was moved to the 1st of November in order to replace some other traditional celebrations of the local people. On this day the people prayed for the martyrs and saints and they used to call it All Hallows Eve which later was shortened and that is how it got the name Halloween.

Halloween, ©Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Halloween, ©Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Portuguese traditions

On All Saints Day the people of Portugal usually honor their dead by arranging and cleaning their graves, putting fresh flowers on them and by baking cinnamon cakes for the family. They serve wine and chestnuts in the open air, the children go door to door and sing to the residents of the house. At this time of the year the trees become colorful and the leaves start to leave the branches. In the air you can feel that winter is knocking at the door.

Cleaning work, ©nSeika/Flickr

Cleaning work, ©nSeika/Flickr

Samhain – The Festival of the Dead

The Portuguese people on this holiday commemorate the people who have passed and also remember the great earthquake in Lisbon which happened in 1755 and took 100.000 souls from the nation. But Samhain is not only about sadness and living in the past. It is also a time to be merry and to enjoy feasts. Following in nature’s footsteps the people also consider this event as a time for transformation and a time of magic.

Samhain Offering, ©Avia Venefica/Flickr

Samhain Offering, ©Avia Venefica/Flickr

As the trees change their colors we make changes in our lives. We confront and defeat our fears and after Halloween has passed so did our old selves. Join the Portuguese and make a change in your life as you celebrate Halloween.

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