Mosaic / November 6, 2008

Catalan Chronicle: Boo!

For those of you that don’t know me well, my favorite holiday is Halloween. What better excuse is there to dress up in costume, change character, eat candy, and run around in the dark with your friends? For this reason I make sure to celebrate every year, and this year proved no different. Halloween in Barcelona is something of a foreign holiday; it is seen as ‘Americana’. They celebrate it, “but not like you do,” they say, referring to the customs of my native United States. But I am experienced in the art of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve, and my status abroad would not hamper me. A group of us started celebrating that morning in costume. Juniors Ellie Poley made for an adorable kid-vampire and Julia Learned, of Smith College, played Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin. I’m proud to say I had hand-sewn myself a black cape/vest thing of thick fur and went as a cat. The “Cementiri Del Sud-Oest”, a famous cemetery in Barcelona, was our first stop on the trip. It was opened in 1883 on the side of the mountain of Montjuic. It’s known for being the burial site of artist Joan Miró, flamenco star, Carmen Amaya, and assassinated nationalist president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys. The cemetery is broken up into four separate burial grounds: one for Catholics, one for Protestants, one for non-Christians, and one for abortions. It was raining as we passed through, taking in all the names and stones and family’s decorative contributions. Each tomb is stacked on the other, like filing cabinets, with the name of the dead on the front behind glass. There were also larger tombs with stained glass windows, soft fabric, and statues of saints watching over the dead. They were sealed off to the world, except for those tombs whose glass had been broken long ago, a small circle revealing the heads of holy figures. We left and, after a struggle to find the bus stop, a few went off to eat, while the others went to the “Museu de Carrosses Fúnebres”, the Hearse Museum. It was free, housed in the basement of the Sancho de Avila Funeral Home, whose motto is “we accompany you.” A security guard who seemed terribly bored showed us around. The museum showcases hearses from the end of the 19th through the first half of the 20th century. There were old funeral cars, as well as horse-drawn funeral coaches. The coaches were decked in elaborate symbols such as clocks, angels, and the owl, meant to symbolize “solitude and silence, like death itself…and the wisdom, which men supposedly reach when they die and go to the great beyond,” read the pamphlet the security guard handed us. After that came the “Bosc de les Fades”, or Forest of the Fairies bar, decorated like a mystical forest to the point that there was even a faux lightning storm. This was our day. And then there was the night. This is where the Barcelonans come out to celebrate Halloween with parties, some, where elegant dress is required, and others that celebrate the more eclectic persona. I opted for the latter and ended up making friends with a chicken, a ladybug, and a zebra. Down the streets the regular crowd disappeared, replaced by all sorts of creatures. And like all good Spanish festivities, the holiday lasted all night.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum

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