01 November 2011

Halloween in Barcelona

We really thought Halloween was like American football and peanut butter – something beloved at home that never really caught on in Europe. But the pumpkin seed seems to have been planted in Spain and, here in Barcelona, the holiday has gained some popularity. This isn’t to say that trick-or-treaters were knocking on doors for croquettes. There was simply a nice peppering of festivity throughout the city on Halloween and the night before.
The first signs appeared in obvious forms – stag parties roving the streets in costumes, international students in flamenco dresses, a Happy Halloween banner hanging from the doorway of “Fish&Chips.” But it definitely reached beyond the expat scene. Little kids wore FC Barcelona uniforms and Scream masks. One girl struggled not to trip on her oversized sweater, an orange and block horizontal stripe number of her mother’s. Paired, of course, with a fedora and Freddie Krueger claws.
There was a plastic pumpkin here, a cotton cobweb draped there, a line of wrinkling jack-o-lanterns lined up on a balcony. These pumpkins grinned from a market stand. Without the pop-up costume shops, convenience store candy displays and masquerade party sitcom plots, Halloween feels a lot more simple. You can celebrate if you want or just go about your day without anyone judging you for your lack of interest.
So what is Halloween at its most basic level? Scary of course! Costumes were more ghoulish than witty, more bloody than skin-baring. The most idea-oriented thing we saw was a group of teenage boys dressed as comic book samurai, complete with absurdly oversized swords and cartoonish wigs. Most people, though, were just going for dead or undead look. All of the zombie homages may be a little nod to the more widely celebrated Day of the Dead (November 1st).
Day Light Savings ended on the Saturday night before Halloween, giving everyone an extra hour to party it up. This bar was still being decorated when we arrived at around 10pm. Things get started really late here. People began to stream in, none in costume, most excited to order the themed drink of the night: absinthe. The bartender took great pains to get it all right, but no one really seemed to care, preferring to mingle than watch the chemistry of it all. It’s just something about that liquor’s goblin green color and borderline mythic history and edge of danger that just screams Halloween. For me, the candy bowl set out on the corner was a truer badge of authenticity.

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