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Miércoles de Ceniza

Hoy es miércoles después de carnavales, o lo que es lo mismo: miércoles de ceniza. Representa el primer día de Cuaresma en el calendario litúrgico de la religión católica y hoy escribo sobre esto porque no lo tenía presente hasta que casualmetne lo leí por internet.

Estuve pensando que desde que me gradué del colegio he dejado de lado por completo todos los ritos de mi religión. Hace años que no participo de la imposición de las cenizas, aunque hay una cosa sobre este ritual que quiero tener en cuenta: llevar las cenizas en la frente es un recordatorio de lo efímera que es la vida, de que en polvo nos convertiremos y de que nuestro paso por la vida y la vida misma es sólo un préstamo temporal.

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Posted by on February 17, 2010 in tradiciones

 

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All Saints’ Day in Spain

With the intention of honoring both acknowledged and unfamiliar martyrs, All Saint’s Day, also known as All Hallows or Hallowmas, is mainly a Roman Catholic and Anglican holiday that gives followers a chance to remember all saints and martyrs throughout history. “Moved from its original date in May more than ten centuries ago to offset the pagan autumn festivals held at that time of year,” this holiday is usually celebrated on the day after All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) on November 1st in Spain and other Western countries since Pope Gregory IV designated its official and mandatory church-wide observance in the year 837. However, churches in the East typically commemorate it on the Sunday right after Pentecost.
The original observance of this day started as a solemnity for all martyrs of the ancient church, “men, women, and children who were persecuted and killed for their faith in Christ,” but because many of the martyrs’ names were unknown, and because many of them died on the same day or in groups; the celebration came about to include all sufferers and believers, and it resulted in a common veneration and tribute to all saints, representing the gradual unity of the entire Roman Catholic Church.

Even if this feast is genuinely considered more of a religious than pagan tradition, the Lutheran or Protestant Church also honors this holiday although in a much different way; they celebrate Thanksgiving and strengthen their devotion through the imitation of faith and other virtues by giving glory to God and not to the saints since they believe that only God can give saints the grace they need to deserve heaven, as on Earth they were miserable and sinners, just like we are.

Today, all the thousands and thousands of people who have died in the past defending their faith are remembered and honored on this day even if their names are not on the list of canonized saints. This celebration is much like the American Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day holidays, in which many people or heroes are admired in a single day.

The liturgical color of this holiday is white, and although each country celebrates in their own way, this festivity is considered an “obligation” day in the West and a “feast” day in the East, which translates in the forgoing of servile work and the requirement of attending mass for followers.

In Spain, followers make offerings on this national holiday; they visit and bring flowers, usually chrysanthemums, and light candles next to the graves of dead relatives during the previous days and on the day of the feast. The Church traditionally celebrates a Eucharist to commemorate all saints, and remind us of our links to those who have passed away. It is customary for people to attend Mass, often held in the local cemeteries, or participate in a march even if no relatives are buried on the sacred grounds. On this day, Catholics “recall men and women of the Bible,” Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastics, and Righteous “and praise God for their examples.” People recall their relatives and friends, which makes the celebration more personal and meaningful, and they also “glorify God not just for the faithfulness of the saints, but for His faithfulness to the saints.”

Another typical Spanish tradition is for people to see a performance of José Zorrilla’s play “Don Juan Tenorio.” This play tells the myth of “Don Juan” and his choice between salvation and perdition, which mirrors the theme of the holiday and has been performed in Spanish theaters on All Saints’ Day for dozens of years.

Even though this represents a day of retrospection and prayers, as with other religious festivities, there’s also room for enjoying the typical All Saint’s Day sweets and favorite gift of relatives during the celebration: “Huesos de Santos” (“Saints’ Bones”), which are thumb-sized marzipan sweets made of egg yolk, almond and sugar, and frequently filled with egg-yolk cream although as time has gone by, Spanish bakeries have started to offer them filed with chocolate, strawberry syrup, coconut and even praline and yogurt. The flavors of this dessert are very concentrated, which makes them sickly. Although the saints’ bones aren’t really bone- but rather cylinder-shaped, they do have the characteristic whitish color that’s given by the sugar syrup that covers them.

Other typical sweets that people are delighted with during this holiday are the “Buñuelos de Viento” (Puffs of Wind) and “Panellets.” The “Buñuelos de Viento” are small, usually fried round-cakes of sweetened, leavened dough, much like the traditional donuts but smaller. They have a delicate taste and although they weren’t originally filled, therefore their name “puffs of wind,” nowadays they can have milk cream, whipping cream or chocolate on the inside. Finally, the “Panellets” were originally handmade sweets made of almonds, sugar, lime, sweet potato and egg-yolk, typically covered with chocolate, coconut or pine nuts, although today they are also industrially produced. These small cakes are traditionally given to Godchildren by their Godparents during this day.

In Catalonia, “La Castañada” is customary as well, which is a tradition that includes not only eating the traditional sweets but also sweet potato and roasted chestnuts with white wine after a family meal, and in many other regions of the country local traditions are also embraced on this day.

All Saints’ Day can be seen as the sum of the most important Catholic festivities such as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost “because it reminds us that it is only by the perfect life and saving death of Jesus Christ that Christians are made saints in the sight of the God.” Although its importance varies from country to country and person to person, and each church holds a different interpretation of who are to be considered saints, All Saints’ Day is an emblematic tradition that has been celebrated for centuries and will keep passing on from generations as the day in which we simply remember all saints.

Images By: Dimitris Petridis @ Stock.Xchng & Consumer.es

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2007 in días como hoy

 

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All Hallows Eve in Spain

Traditionally celebrated on the night of October 31, Halloween is the day before All Saints’ Day as its name entails the vigil or “All Hallows Eve” (Hallowe’en) of all saints. As many other Catholic traditions such as Christmas and New Year’s, the festivity of All Saint’s’ starts the evening before, so even though most people only think of candy, costumes, pumpkins and witches on Halloween, and even though it is widely thought to be a pagan tradition, this celebration actually has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church since “the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints,” and “many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigils.”
In the Celtic tradition, “Samhain” was celebrated on the night before November 1st, and this was the pagan festivity that marked the end of the summer and harvest season and the beginning of the cold and dark-day season. Celtic tribes believed that the Lord of the dead made the souls of deceased come to life, which allowed the druids (priests, soothsayers, judges, poets, etc. in ancient Britain, Ireland, and France) to communicate with ancestors and invoke the dead. They started bonfires and cast spells to scare away the deaths, and people used to leave food at their doorways so that spirits would leave happy and leave them alone unharmed. After the roman invasion, the two cultures began to mix and the sketches of the primitive Halloween celebration began to appear, and it transformed through the years until it became the traditional Halloween celebration that people commemorate these days and that has little or nothing to do with what it primarily intended.

Some controversy still revolves around the origins of Halloween and on whether it is genuinely Catholic or Pagan. Although its origins are Pagan, the holiday seems to have more elements of the Catholic Church. For example, the start of the current “trick-or-treat” custom can be found between the ancient and modern European history, in which “poor people in the community begged for ‘soul cakes,’ and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls.” In the States Halloween is actually not an evening to cry or remember saints or the departed, but rather a night n which kids wear costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy. In addition, the trick-or-treating tradition remains as such mainly by custom since “the naughty and destructive tricks once associated with Hallowe’en seem mostly to have disappeared.”

In the same manner, people dress in evil costumes and wear frightening masks to mock evil, confuse and scare evil spirits while looking like them “because as Christians, it has no real power over us.” The tradition of the jack-o-lantern also developed originally in Europe as a way of decorating streets during the eve of All Hallows Day, and therein the Witch Night evolved. However, some people believe that the tradition of the pumpkins is uniquely American, but the truth is that it has its origins in an old Irish custom according to which a dead man had to walk every night with hollowed-out turnip lantern as punishment for all his sins, which relates to the “authentic Catholic teaching about Purgatory and the need for every soul’s purification from the effects of sin before entering Heaven.”

Being the traditional Halloween colors, orange and black represent the color of “ripe pumpkins, falling leaves and glowing sunsets and candlelight;” and the “traditional color of mourning in the West” respectively. The latter is believed to represent sins and evil, as it is the liturgical color of All Souls’ Day (the day after All Saints) while the previous one is believed to represent the fall season and the blazing of bonfires and candles.

Nowadays, the “Halloween” tradition is considered a secular festivity, and it is the result of the different customs that European immigrants took with them to the U.S., many of which are just part of the past in Europe since they only make sense in the integration that the American culture has given to this festivity. Although the tradition remains strong in the U.S. and has been widely Americanized while it has disappeared in most parts of the world, some European countries are resorting back to this holiday. In Spain, October represents the month of candy and every year more schools throw costume parties for the children. Spaniards have and are everlastingly adopting their own version of the tradition, which I have found surprising even though the celebration hasn’t extended as much as it has in the States.

Today was the second Halloween that I spend in Spain and both last and this year my family and I got kids on our door asking for “Truco o Golosina” or “Truco o Trato.” It was kind of cute as I had never listened to kids trick-or-treating in Spanish, so I was all excited watching the kids wearing their Halloween costumes and collecting candy around the neighborhood. Even if the tradition remains primarily American and it isn’t officially observed in Spain, people from this and other cultures are embracing it as well, and I think it is a matter of time before the tradition becomes more popular and we start seeing imposing Halloween decorations and customs around the entire European land.

Image by: Mark Miller @ Stock.Xchng

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2007 in días como hoy

 

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