All Saints' Day
November 1st is an important day in the Spanish calendar. It is Todos Los Santos or All Saints' Day. Throughout the day, people head for the village cemetery armed with flowers and candles to decorate the graves of loved ones. Then, as night falls, people return to the cemetery as family groups, spending time around the various family graves, exchanging fond memories of those they have lost down the years, and sharing the time with other families. Everything takes place by the light of the candles on the graves. Although the air is full of chatter and laughter, there is an overriding air of reverence. In days gone by the whole village would have passed the entire night in this way in the cemetery, but it is more usual nowadays to drop in for and hour or so, and then return home.
The continuance of this observance is greatly helped by the fact that Spaniards generally stay close to the place of their birth throughout their lives; those who do go away to work, returning at regular intervals. Added to this is the fact that cremation is still relatively uncommon in Spain, although it is gaining in popularity.
I lost my youngest brother earlier this year. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in France. It was brought home to me last night how important it is to have a specific place where you can feel a continuing contact with a lost loved one.