Halloween , souls and saints

firey witch
Despite the commercial hype that now surrounds the festival of Halloween, the origins of the celebration of October 31st are, most scholars and historians agree, to be found in the Celtic and Druidic pasts.
‘Samhain’ was a Gaelic festival marking the end of the summer and the beginning of the darker half of the year, the winter, and was celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st. Like many of today’s Christian festivals, Easter for instance, the establishment and fixing of dates is often traced back to the decision of religious powers to adapt some ‘pagan’ and populist celebrations and incorporate them into the religious calendars. All Saints or All Hallows day is celebrated on November 1st – here in Spain, Dia de los Santos, is an important date – so October 31st also became known as All Hallows Eve, Hallows ‘Even, and influenced by Samhain the two were, over time, morphed into what is know today as Halloween.
Samhain is mentioned in some of the very earliest Irish literature, and was one of the four hugely important seasonal festivals along with ‘Imbolc’, ‘Beltane’ and ‘Lughnasadh’, also observed in Scotland and the Isle of Man with similar festivals in other Celtic hubs, in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Samhain was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. Samhain was also seen as a time when the door to the “Otherworld” opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. These could be friends of foes, and while many set a place at their table for family members who had passed over, others took precautions against harmful spirits. The latter is generally thought to have inspired the custom of dressing up, ‘guising’ on the night of October 31st, to confuse or scare off a wandering evil spirit. Fairies were said to be able to steal humans on Samhain, and fairy mounds were out of bounds on that night. If people had to walk at night they would perhaps turn their clothes inside out or carry iron or salt to keep the bad fairies at bay.
Guising, or dis-guising is also the origin of today’s more Americanised ‘trick-or-treat’. In earlier centuries on October 31st children in Ireland and Scotland would go from door to door disguised and perform a simple task, sing a song or recite a poem in exchange for a treat – then perhaps fruit, nuts, today it’s more likely to be sweets, but the notion of playing a trick on someone who didn’t hand over anything wasn’t really common until much later.

halloween modern pumpkin
Turnip lanterns, the precursor of the pumpkin jack-o-lantern so common today, with faces carved into them, were common at Samhain in the 19th century in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. The purpose of these lanterns may have been threefold. They may have been used to light one’s way while outside on Samhain night; to represent the spirits and otherworldly beings; and/or to protect oneself and one’s home from them. Some have suggested that there were often set on windowsills to keep the spirits out of one’s home. However, others suggest that they originated with All Saints/All Souls and that they represented Christian souls in purgatory. It is generally believed that, as with many traditions that crossed during periods of mass immigration from Ireland and Great Britain to the Americas in the 19th and early 20th century, the traditional carved turnip was replaced by the pumpkin as they were more plentiful and easier to carve.
There are some traditional foods that are still served in Irish households on Halloween night. Barmbrack is a fruit cake with various objects baked into it, each with a different meaning for the person who is lucky or unlucky enough to receive that particular slice. A dried pea means you won’t marry this year, a stick means your marriage will be unhappy – your spouse will beat you, a piece of cloth mean bad luck or poverty, a small coin signifies good fortune and wealth and a ring means you will wed within the year.

Barmbrack, traditional Halloween cake
Colcannon was another Irish favourite, made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), and could contain other ingredients such as scallions or spring onions, leeks, onions and chives. This would often be eaten with boiled ham.
Carmel apples, or toffee apples, apples covered in a hard toffee coating and placed on a stick, are another treat though these days are not specifically associated with Halloween.
Here in Spain and other parts of the world the day after Halloween, November 1st, is of huge importance socially and cultural. As mentioned above, it’s Dia de Todos los Santos y Fieles Difuntos”, All Saints and All Souls day, and it is the custom to visit family graves, usually bringing flowers to the cemetery. In Adeje the council has made sure the local graveyard is ready to receive visitors, and the Farmers Market has flowers for those visiting loved ones and no doubt a good supply of pumpkins as well.
The councillor with responsibility for the cemetery, Esther Rivero Vargas, has also announced that they hope to be able to offer a local cremation service by next year as well.


“A good book has no ending” (R.D. Cumming)


October 24th is Libraries Day here and to celebrate the Adeje councillor for libraries and artistic heritage Juan Desiderio Afonso Ruiz, has organised a series of activities during the week.

The councillor says, “as well as marking this important date in the education/cultural calendar, we also want to acknowledge the importance of libraries in general in the world. They are a reflection of our acquired knowledge in different fields.”

According to the councillor, Adeje’s library users are very active within the national network. “During the first half of 2015 we registered 35,000 visits. Adeje library users in the central library in the Cultural Centre constituted 93% of visitors; the rest attended the libraries in outlying neighbourhoods, in Fañabé, Tijoco, Armeñime and Miraverde.

“Since July of this year alone library staff in Adeje have attended to over 13,500 people”, reported the councillor. “A quarter of the readers were children, and of the adult readers more women than men are using the service”.

Among the activities planned for the 24th are participation in a Tenerife solidarity event among different libraries, and the day before, Friday October 23rd, there is a workshop (in Spanish) for sixth class pupils by Adeje environment councillor, Esther Rivero Vargas, as this is International Year of Soils. Throughout the week the library will also be displaying panels and information about the importance of sustainable soil management and its relevance to the wellbeing of society in general.

In parallel to the above activities there will be three book launches: “Enlazando Verdades” by Dulce Meneses, “La dulce francesa. Historia de una ocultación” by Armando Astarloa and “Los fantásticos alimentos de la madre tierra” by Gladys E. Oncoy

Hold your breath!


25 free divers perfect their technique with Umberto Pelizzari

Foto: Sergio Hanquet

Foto: Sergio Hanquet

The Adeje Municipal Aquatic School and Apnea Academy West Europe Centre, in La Caleta, hosted a week long training course for free diving professionals with world champion Umberto Pelizzari at the helm.

The programme was theoretical and practical, spread over 80 hours, and for those already advanced in this particular sport. Pelizzari’s teaching team included experts in relaxation, safety, first aid and swimming, with concentration on preparing the body for dives as well as being mentally prepared for what is a very particular kind of sport. Pelizzari explains, “When you are more relaxed mentally your body is also more at ease. Free diving is about exchanging our environment for that under the sea, and those who can successfully practise this sport need to find their inner peace and arrive at a particular point of relaxation which will allow them descend and properly use the oxygen needed to complete the dive.

adeje-apnea Umberto Pelizzari (7)

“When we free dive we are fighting against a natural survival instinct – to breathe. So it’s important to learn to relax mentally”. Pelizzari also stressed that this was a sport that you had to adapt to over time and no diver could expect to descend 30 metres on their first submergence. Those who practise free diving have to be fully aware of their own limitations and work within them.

The theoretical part of the course took place in the Tenerife Top Training centre with some practices in the pool. The students also undertook sea dives at different depths all under the supervision of Pelizzari and the on-site experts. The week-long course ended with a conference in conjunction with the marvellous photographer Sergio Hanquet in the Adeje CDTCA.

adeje-apnea Umberto Pelizzari (1)


Adeje’s local fiestas begin


The finishing touch to the month-long Lustrales celebrations

fiestas patronales

The Adeje Patronal festivals are the finishing touch to the month-long Lustrales celebrations, and will open with a Gala show this Saturday with “Obladí Obladá” and a concert by Fito and Fitipaldis.

The programme of events was presented yesterday by Adeje mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, the councillor for creative development, Adolfo Alonso and the Adeje parish priest, Honorio Campos.

“These are festivities for everyone”, said the mayor, adding that there were 14 local fiestas in the region but this one was universal as “it is the last in the festival calendar and is in celebration of our Patron”. He also referred to the series of visits as part of last month’s Lustral celebrations, saying they had been very positive “and residents from different communities and groups, who make up Adeje, today participated and came together under the mantle of Adeje’s iconic figure, the Virgin of the Incarnation”.
The mayor said that during the local festivals there would also be a coming together of other towns that have the Virgin of the Incarnation as their patron – La Victoria, Hermigua and Valle San Lorenzo in Arona, “celebrating the historic links with Adeje”. One of the other events that came in for particular mention was the 90th anniversary of the Adeje Patron band, who will celebrate a twinning with the Municipal Band of Agaete (Gran Canaria).

Councillor Alonso referred to the traditional Romería (pilgrim parade) which will take place on October 18th, and the 31st Festival of Folklore which will include invited groups Surco y Arado and Añate”. He added that the programme of events for the week “ensured activities for all the family”, and that this year the quality of events planned was even higher with concerts such as that by Fito y Fitipaldis, top Spanish comic Carlos Latre on stage and a musical for the kids, Los Payasos de la tele (The clowns from the telly). There will be street parties with different bands and orchestras, sports activities, the Spanish domino championships are taking place, and much more.

The first non-religious act will be the Gala Obladí Obladá with people from all over Adeje, taking place in the Plaza de España on Friday October 9th from 10pm (free show).

The church has also thanked the council for the work “carried out in developing this festival, and in particular this year following the Lustral visits”. Parish priest Honorio Campos added that of all the religious events and acts scheduled those on the 11th and 12th of October were of particular importance, with masses in honour of the Virgin of the Incarnation, as well as inviting the faithful to attend mass on October 18th, the day of the Romería.

IMG_2567 _MG_0586

Adeje mayor opens the door to The Pink Room


Over 120 people attended the event inspired by Brigitte Gypen and the Walk for Life movement

Adeje mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, yesterday officially opened the door to The Pink Room, a space that is dedicated to offering help and more to those suffering from breast cancer and their families. The Pink Room is on the second floor of the School of Security and Co-existence in Las Nieves in Adeje.
Addressing the 120 people who turned up for the opening, the mayor said “it’s very important that here in Adeje, in the area in general, we can have a space that can be used as a reference point for those who are engaged in the fight against breast cancer. This is also for those who are in seach of information, and those who maybe need that information, as early detection is vital. We also need to work to erradicate taboos surrounding breast cancer and offer solid information”:

He continued, “this is an ideal place to create a focus point for cooperation among medical professional, therapists, who are volunteering their services…I am inviting everyong to help create a unit that reflects solidarity and mutual help. And the Adeje council will always be here for you. It’s not by chance that we have created this space in the School of Security and Coexistence – this is security on a wider scale, not just policing, but also security of health, help for families, mediation… coexistence is integration”.


Also present at the event was the Adeje councillor for Health Protection and Quality of Life Amada Trujillo Bencomo, and Brigitte Gypen, the woman behind the Walk for Life movement, who mentioned that the idea for the Pink Room was actually first raised in an interview with English Time on Radio Sur Adeje a few years ago. She said “this service is made possible through those who are working with us in a voluntary capacity, and we will be offering help but also hosting conferences, workshops…a lot more. This message I also want to send today is “we need you because we need people to make this place work”.

The Pink Room was conceived with the clear intention of creating a place to help and increase awareness about breast cancer. People affected, those who are working in the field professionally or on a volunteer basis, can use the room to talk about issues that affect those diagnosed with breast cancer, and also promote the vital importance of early detection as well as working on funding, communication avenues, treatments, research, etc.


Councillor Amada Trujillo Bencomo said “we have to work to reinforce the importance of prevention and look at how we can help those affected. One in every eight women can become affected but with early detection there is an excellent chance of overcoming the cancer. With this Pink Room we will evolve into a meeting point, a place where people can come together to talk, to offer help and advice, psycological assistance if needed – and we will be working with the health centre to promote prevention”.


Fund-raising and fire engine fun

This Saturday, October 3rd, the public are invited to view and enjoy a day out at the Adeje fire station from midday onwards.

The Adeje fire fighters are a volunteer force, and are raising funds to buy a new multi-lift truck. So this year’s “Oktoberfest” is the perfect setting and considering the dedication shown by this team, it’s a worthy cause indeed and will help them save even more lives. The truck in question costs two hundred thousand euros and will serve the south of the island.

During the day there will a range of family-friendly activities, food tastings, music, performances and a lot more, and no doubt there will be a chance for younger kids to see the inside of a fire truck and even wear don a fire helmet.
Councillor Ermitas Moreira García said “the volunteer fire fighters are an important part of the borough and serve at many municipal events ensuring safety and security. Their commitment to the South’s population is 100 per cent and they are always ready to respond to a call for help. Only a year ago they were the recipients of the Ganigo, a prize awarded by the South Initiatives Centre, for their dedication to the public. We ask everyone who can to come along on Saturday to have a fun day out and contribute with this Adeje group that has been serving Adeje for 27 years”.
The Adeje Volunteer Fire-fighters were created in 1988, one of the first volunteer force of this kind in Spain and their mission is to aid and assist in emergency situations. Over the years they have become an integral part of the Adeje community. There are currently 40 active members of the crew, and they have also now incorporated a young fire-fighters group made up of 15 teenagers, who can become full members when they reach 18 years of age.