Spending holidays away from home can be one of the hardest aspects of studying abroad, however it can also be extremely fun. As Spaniards do not typically celebrate many holidays that we have in the US such as Thanksgiving or Halloween I was scared that I would miss out on some my favorite holidays during my time abroad. However, spending American holidays in a different country has actually turned out to be a unique and exciting experience.
In order to incorporate American culture into my life here in Madrid I decided to teach my foreign friends about Halloween customs in the United States. My foreign roommates were excited to see spider webs and skeletons around our apartment and even more excited to carve a pumpkin. Most Europeans have never carved a pumpkin and if they have they usually only carve one once when they are very young. A few of my roommates decided to join me while carving my pumpkin. Much to their surprise carving a pumpkin is no easy feat and takes patience and skill. My roommates were also thoroughly impressed with my pumpkin carving skills, though in reality they are less than perfect. After carving pumpkins I also decided to bake pumpkin seeds for my roommates and I to eat. Though apprehensive all of them did enjoy trying them.
Loving Halloween as much as I do I also decided that it was absolutely necessary to buy a costume for Halloween. After much deliberation my friends and I decided that we would be pirates. However, because Halloween is not typically celebrated in Spain finding a costume can be a bit of a challenge. Euro Bazars or our equivalent to dollar stores often provide costumes and cheap accessories. There are also a few costume stores that open for the Halloween season in Madrid. For many of my foreign friends it was their first time dressing up for Halloween since they were children. But, to my surprise, I did see plenty of children and young adults dressed up around Madrid on Halloween night, eager to celebrate a holiday that is gaining popularity in Spain.
Though Halloween is not commonly celebrated in Spain it does fall at the same time as a very important national holiday, Día de todo de los Santos, or All Saints Day. All Saints Day is a Catholic holiday, which celebrates the lives of the deceased, much like Día de los Muertos in Mexico. In addition, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve has a strong historical connection to All Saints Day. In Spain, All Saints Day is celebrated by decorating the graves of loved ones with flowers then spending the day with family. Most stores are closed on this day is Spain and all class was cancelled due to the importance of this holiday in Spanish culture. Though I missed out on a true American Halloween, learning about Día de los Santos was a great experience and great way to learn about the holidays in Spain.
Now, as Thanksgiving is quickly arriving I am excited to teach my friends about another American holiday. My friends are all excited for a traditional Thanksgiving feast and to celebrate this meaningful holiday. While spending these holidays away from my home is in no way easy I find that I have found a new appreciation for them because I am not in the US. While at home we can take holidays for granted. Thanksgiving becomes a day of eating and football, not of giving true thanks, and Halloween is day to dress up and eat piles on candy. When explaining these holidays in a different place I have rediscovered the true meaning and am more than proud to express it to the world.