Is this the weirdest Halloween festival in Spain?
Forget Halloween in Spain as you know it. In Cadiz city you’re more likely to be spooked by the strange goings-on at the local markets when the produce comes to life like Toy Story.
You could come face to face with a Samurai sword-wielding suckling pig at the meat counter, or a school of cod wearing dresses and hats at the fishmonger’s stall.
While, over in fruit and veg, don’t be surprised to see courgettes in Moors and Christians costumes skirmishing around pasta castles with peas playing supporting roles as cannon balls.
At Tosantos Cadiz, the world’s weirdest Halloween gastro fest where market stallholders kit out their merchandise in fancy dress, so long as it’s entertaining and made out of food, anything goes.
Every year on the Monday before All Saints' Day (October 29 in 2018), some 80 stall holders at the city’s Central and Virgen del Rosario markets show off their artistry and wicked sense of humour with caricatures of famous figures carved out of caulies and carrots and elaborate stage sets lampooning the latest political scandals. If you’re looking for a Halloween pumpkin, it could well be disguised as Donald Trump!
The Gaditanos are famous for their satirical Carnival costumes so they put on quite a show. Although as much of the humour is in the written cards accompanying the displays - known as exornos - you’ll need to speak good Spanish and be au fait with current issues to get all the jokes.
Although visitors are still discovering this singular event, Tosantos was created way back in 1876 to drum up custom for the fresh autumn and winter produce arriving at the markets of Cadiz. It was christened after the solemn religious festival of Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) marked on November 1, a national holiday when shops and markets shut and Spanish families visit the cemetery to leave fresh flowers for lost loved ones.
Over the decades, the fiesta-loving Spanish realised they could turn it into a ‘mega puente’ - literally a ‘holiday bridge’ - and All Saints Day became a long weekend.
Today the florists do a roaring trade and stallholders compete for cash prizes for the best displays in five categories of merchandise. Tastings and workshops are part of a programme announced earlier in the week by a pregonero - Town Crier - suitably disguised in food-themed fancy dress.
Halloween in Spain
In case you’re wondering, Halloween in Spain exists. It has been officially adopted as a tourist attraction and many towns stage their own spooky costume contests - the ones you make, not hire!
Among traditionalists, October 31st is more importantly All Saints Eve (Víspera de Todos los Santos), a time for family reunions, slap-up dinners and dancing before the next day’s more sombre proceedings.
With stalls heaped with a harvest of Fall goodies, Tosantos is a great way to celebrate before the countdown to Christmas begins.
Look out for roast chestnuts, foraged mushrooms, almonds, avocados, sweet potatoes, autumn berries, succulent persimmons and, of course, Halloween pumpkins although they may be in disguise!
Game is back on the market stalls in the shape of quail and rabbit, venison and wild boar. And the delicious aroma of seasonal home-baked cakes and batatas asadas - roast sweet potatoes - wafting through the market halls will give you an appetite to try and buy.
These specialities traditionally eaten on All Saints Day exploit the bounty of the autumn harvest. Smile and you may get a free tasting!
Huesos de Santo
Saint’s Bones in English, their name defines their shape - a marzipan tube traditionally filled with confectioner’s custard.
Miniature doughnuts (buñuelo = little bun) filled with jam and rolled in sugar. One of King Phillip II of Spain’s fave medieval munches, according to Catholic lore when you eat one, a soul is released from purgatory.
Pan de Cadiz
A sweet bread dough with a yummy marzipan filling also devoured at Christmas.
Iconic in Andalucia, also eaten at Easter. Similar to a sweet fritter, made with flour, oil and sugar and deep fried.
Dulce de Membrillo
A solid sweet jelly made from the fruit of the quince, delicious with sour local goats cheeses like Payoyo.
MARKET HOURS: 18.30 until 22.00