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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 &


Posted by on November 1, 2007 in días como hoy


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Adeje’s Patron Saints’ Holiday

Being the city center and capital of the county receiving the same name, Adeje is proud of its heritage and celebrates every year its ancestral traditions during the city’s local festivities on the occasion of the town’s patron saints: Saint Sebastian, Saint Ursula and Virgin Incarnation. The county’s Mayor, the Culture Councilor and the local parish priest presented the schedule for this year’s festivities last October 4th. This year the celebration lasted from the 6th until the 21st of October and the detailed outline for the different religious and secular activities to take place during those days was also announced.
I’ve only been living in this county for twelve months, and although I couldn’t attend to the rest of the galas this year, I was able to join the crowd of pilgrims for the closing event during the town’s festivities. Splendid, colorful and decorated carts together with traditional Canary groups of dancers and singers wearing classic Canary costumes flooded the town’s streets as they paraded through Adeje. Hundreds of people from the neighborhood and adjacent cities in the South of Tenerife’s Island traveled through the streets as well while they followed and walked next to the many carriages that the different city’s neighborhoods and associations rode.

What I enjoyed the most was the fact that the people riding each carriage would give out to pedestrians typical Canary food and drinks as they walked along and at the same time that singers and dancers livened up the passage. Glasses of wine, beer, sangria, and sodas; typical Canarian potatoes, “gofio” and hard-boiled eggs were some of the items on the menu. Grilled pork chops, chicken skewers, chickpeas, sardines and stew were also part of the list of options. Everything was cooked on the moving carriages and dished out for free when ready; it is the first time I participate in a celebration of the kind, and also the first time I am aware of one like it. The distribution of alcoholic bevera ges would be unthinkable in the U.S. and even worse if it is during midday hours.

Pilgrims also honored the patron saints with offerings of fruit, flowers and vegetables, which they placed at the saints’ feet once they finished the journey. The ambience was pretty warm and emotional, and people’s happiness could be felt as they sang along and enjoyed the Canarian live music. Adeje’s traditions have found their way into people’s culture and allow citizens to bond together while they live those customs in their own way. This is precisely what makes the town and its people special, because their ethnic foods, decorations, music and special activities help them become distinctive.

The entire celebration flowed smoothly as no incidents took place. The local police and a Civil Protection team looked after the multitude, which along with the neatness of the event demonstrated the great organization behind it. It is amazing how the traditions of this town are kept and passed on through generations by means of that symbolic communication that goes past what words can express. It’s wonderful to see how the entire family, from the smaller ones in the house to the elderly participates actively in the festivities, thereby creating a bridge between family members, their present and their past.

I was glad to participate in this event, and I enjoyed not only the music and food but also the carriages. I couldn’t stay until the end of the celebration, but I’ll make sure to attend again next year. Adeje’s festivities are observed year in and year, and regardless of what else may happen, the town’s traditions will not change. Their importance surpasses the economic, cultural and religious lines, and there comes a point at which it doesn’t matter what the tradition is or how it came about, but only that it is practiced. Adeje’s traditions grant great value to their culture, and it is a kind of value that lasts far beyond the moment because it comes from the stability, continuity and identity that it provides for those who participate in such traditions while they make this town unique, link generations, and offer something for every person to hold on to and to rely upon.

“Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening”

Images by: Lito Brau & Coraline

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Posted by on October 29, 2007 in días como hoy


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7 Islands, 7 Stars

The Canary Islands have a rich, yet diverse history as the different tribes on the seven islands that compose this great archipelago had their own culture and customs back during the Spanish conquest. In addition, the significant migratory flow of Spaniards underlies the different influences that remain strong in the islands as the search for better life conditions during hardship and poverty post-war times took Spanish citizens to other countries and later back to their native land.
Because of the thousands of Canary islanders who furtively emigrated temporarily or permanently to South American countries and mainly to Venezuela during the 19th and 20th centuries, and the comings and goings that have brought Venezuelan immigrants closer to the Canarian coasts during recent years; many are the friendship, cultural and affective bonds that have developed through the years and today bring people from these two cultures together.

Even though these two places are thousands of miles away, Venezuelans share many things in common with Canarians and therefore we hold a special fondness for people from the latter culture. Moreover, many Canarian colonies still exist in modern Venezuela, and a large Canary-born population preserving the vocabulary, customs and traditions of its society keeps passing on these cultural features through generations, more so in Venezuela than in any other Latin American country. By the same token, Venezuela is largely referred to in the Canary archipelago as the eighth island, and more specifically, Tenerife is considered the Venezuelan Miami as most of the Venezuelan immigration concentrates in this insular area.

The Spanish language was introduced in Venezuela by the Spaniard conquistadors, many of which were from the fortunate Islands and participated actively in the settlement and development of Latin America. In fact, Venezuelan Spanish has been primarily influenced by Canarians to such an extent that it may be very difficult for other Spanish speakers to tell the Canarian and Venezuelan accents apart. This can be particularly noticed on peninsular Spaniards who typically can’t distinguish the slightly different pronunciation and inflection shades of both cultures.

Other examples of the Spanish and Canarian influence in the Venezuelan traditions are found in religion, architecture, music, food, and other aspects of the Venezuelan culture. For this reason, many of the customary Venezuelan dishes like arepas, cachapas, and hallacas can be found in the islands as they have become a small part of the local cuisine and culture much like the Bienmesabe has become part of the Venezuelan gastronomy when it is originally Canarian. The Roman Catholic also represents the primary religion adopted by Venezuelans in the same way that the Catholic faith is a symbol of the great majority of Spaniard people.

Because of the links that can be recognized between the Canarian and Venezuelan cultures, many different Canary-Venezuelan associations have been created through the years both in Venezuela and in the Islands in order to promote and drive all aspects of culture involving these two societies. An example of this is the “Club Hogar Canario de Venezuela” (Venezuela’s Canarian Organization) located in Venezuela, that arranges yearly celebrations and observes Canarian holidays in order to commemorate and keep alive their traditions, gastronomy, and even typical dresses no matter if they are away.

On the occasion of Columbus Day this past October 12th, one of the Canary-Venezuelan associations settled in Tenerife prepared a special event to rejoice this celebration by honoring the interwoven Canary and Venezuelan roots of all those Venezuelans currently residing in the island who have a Canary heritage, and all of those Canarians whose parents are returnees, just to give a couple of examples. The event was celebrated in the Guía de Isora County, where a large community of Venezuelans currently exists.

At the fair there were food kiosks selling traditional Canarian food and Venezuelan dishes, desserts, drinks and beer. There was also typical Venezuelan music including Joropo, tambores, Gaitas, merengue and salsa. A live band also livened up the afternoon, and later on a group of Canarian ladies delighted the audience with a great performance of “Isas Canarias,” which together with “Folías” and “Seguidillas” represent typical dances from this culture. Soon after, a combo of kids shook their bodies to the rhythm of the Venezuelan drums in honor to “San Juan” (Saint John) since the celebration was being held in the Playa San Juan (Saint John Beach) area.

At this event I felt like I was back in my native land and it was a nice sensation since for a while I had been feeling like I didn’t belong to any particular culture any longer. I was also able to learn more of the Canarian folklore including their dances and their costumes; there was some very touching poetry as well, and I really enjoyed myself while participating in this celebration.

History is all around and we have a lot to learn from the Spanish and Canarian legacy of our ancestors. Canarians were immigrants back in the days, not only because of their financial needs, but due to the Spaniards’ settlement plans for the Americas. Back then, they established a strong presence in our country, in the same way that we’re now returning by a wave of large-scale immigration to the land of our parents and grandparents looking for a better life. We can’t deny of our routs, and neither can modern Canarians who don’t welcome aliens forget their own history. “The kind of ancestors we have had is not as important as the kind of descendants our ancestors have.”

Image composition by: Coraline


Posted by on October 14, 2007 in días como hoy


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Venezuelan Christmas Dinner

Embracing the language, moral codes, rituals, religion and norms within different societies, culture involves the elements that are passed on through generations and define the attitudes and behaviors adopted within specific geographical regions. Different activities and beliefs reflect the elements of specific cultures; elements that are understood and shared by individuals who act in ways previously established by tradition.

Have you ever wondered about the typical traditions of other cultures during Christmas time? Being the most special time of the year, Venezuelan Christmas traditions are very rich because of the variety of cultures that have been assimilated into its society. There are many Venezuelan traditions during Christmas and also many traditional meals prepared and devoured during this time, and as much as I would like to talk about them all, I’ll focus today on the food since I love eating so much, and since I’m at my house anxiously waiting for our Christmas dinner to be ready.

I’ll tell you about some of the main Christmas dishes prepared in Venezuela during this time of the year, which are also Christmas dishes that you are not likely to find in any other culture. The Hallaca, Pan de Jamón, Torta Negra, Dulce de Lechosa and Ponche Crema are the main protagonist dishes that conform the classic Venezuelan Christmas dinner.

The most traditional Venezuelan-Christmas-dinner dish is the Hallaca. The Hallaca is a savory pastry made of a yellow-color cornmeal dough filled with stew, wrapped with banana leaves and cooked to mix the flavors. This sole dish has the influence of three cultures. The white one, because of the European ingredients such as raisins, nuts, and olives that the Hallacas contain; the native one, because of the cornmeal colored with onoto seeds, and the black one from which we obtain the banana leaves used to cook the food. There are different types of Hallaca depending on each region of the country. The original Hallacas are made with different kinds of chopped meat such as pork, poultry, and beef as well as different condiments including green pepper, onion, garlic, tomatoes and spices. Hallacas require hours of preparation and the whole family usually reaunites to make them.

The Hallaca dough is prepared with the cornmeal and colored with the onoto seeds; then, portions of the dough are extended over squared pieces of banana leaves previously cleaned. The pre-cooked stew, that is usually made the night before preparation of Hallacas, is then added, and the banana leaves are finally folded to form rectangular bags that are tied with kitchen string and boiled in huge pots for approximately an hour. The Hallacas can be kept in the refrigerator for two or three weeks and they are boiled for a few minutes and removed from the banana leaves before serving. The flavors are unique and this dish is a personal favorite during Christmas. Although the Hallacas are usually prepared on Christmas, they could be prepared during any time of the year. Some people like to prepare them and freeze them so that they can have Hallacas throughout the year, and this exquisite dish is typically served with chicken salad and ham bread.

In addition to the Hallacas, Venezuelan Christmas are inconceivable without the Pan de Jamón or ham bread. I can guarantee that all Venezuelans living far way from their homeland, dream with their Christmas Hallacas and Pan de Jamón. Fortunately, there are some specialized Venezuelan bakeries scattered throughout the world such as those found in South Florida or The Canary Islands in which the prized Venezuelan Christmas food can be found. The Pan de Jamón is a long, jellyroll-like bread filled with ham, olives, and raisins. This kind of bread dates back to the 1900’s. It doesn’t seem to have an ancient history, but it has become an essential dish in the Venezuelan Christmas dinner.

Today, every family has its own recipe, and every bakery in the country assures that its ham bread is the best. The ham bread can be made with the original flour dough or puffy pastry. As I mentioned before, it is made with olives, raisins, ham and sometimes bacon. For its preparation, the dough is made with regular flour and once ready, it is extended in rectangular portions of approximately 12 by 15 inches. A layer of ham is then placed over the dough pieces and the olives and raisins are then added. The dough pieces are finally rolled and placed on metal trays into the oven for cooking during 25 to 30 minutes. After the ham breads are ready, you can store them in plastic bags for a few days and slice them before serving.

Of course no meal is complete without dessert and drinks, so besides the Hallacas and the ham bread, another main traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish is the Dulce de Lechosa or green papaya dessert. Even though I’m not a big fan of this dessert and although not every family prepares it, it still is a typical dessert frequently prepared for Christmas. The green papaya dessert consists of slim strips of green papaya that are cooked with a previously prepared brown sugar syrup combined with cinnamon and cloves. It is a very easy-to-make dessert usually preserved on glass jars and that serves as a delicious gift for friends and family members during Christmas.

Another typical dish is the Torta Negra (dark or black cake). Although this cake is not originally from Venezuela, it has however become one of the traditional desserts in our tables during this time of the year. The original recipe has been adapted to include some of the unique Venezuelan ingredients that yield this delicious and traditional recipe. Its delicate taste comes from the maceration process that characterizes the preparation of this cake. A variety of dry fruits such as nuts, almonds, and raisins are put to maceration for over a month before this recipe can actually be prepared and this is key to the dark cake. The fruits are left macerating in rum within a glass container stored at a place that receives no direct sunlight. After the month, these fruits are added to the recipe whose ingredients are the same as those used for preparing a typical cake: flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk and vanilla.

Unlike the dishes mentioned above, the Ponche Crema is actually the typical drink consumed in Venezuela during Christmas time, and it is a beverage that has over 100 years of tradition in the country. It is said to have a “secret formula” that combines four main natural ingredients to obtain a fine and delicious eggnog-like drink, which today represents the heritage of most Venezuelans. The Ponche Crema is a cream-based liquor whose recipe can also vary from region to region, but that is usually prepared with ingredients such as milk, rum, eggs, vanilla and condensate milk. This beverage resembles the American eggnog, and unlike the rest of the Venezuelan dishes except for the dark cake, it is today produced at the industrial level. The Ponche Crema can be stored for long periods of time at room temperature; temperature at which this drink can be served other than fridge cold. Its texture is soft and creamy with a sweet taste. This drink can also serve as the base for cocktails and other drinks when blended with different juices and ice.

The Hallaca, Pan de Jamón, Torta Negra, Dulce de Lechosa and Ponche Crema are some of the most important dishes of the Venezuelan Crhistmas dinner. They are part of the tradition of this culture and they provide a warm and great environment that all Venezuelans enjoy during this time of the year. It doesn’t matter where we are, we keep these traditions alive from one generation to another as Christmas dinner is a great moment of familiar union that everyone enjoys sharing with their loved ones in every place around the world.


Posted by on December 24, 2006 in todo lo demás


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