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October 31

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez  

The Story of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez 

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1532–1617) was born in Segovia, Spain, the son of a wool merchant. He was prepared for his First Holy Communion by St. Peter Faber, one of the first Jesuits. When his father died, Alphonsus had to leave school at the age of 14 to take over the family business, which eventually failed. He married and had three children, and was left a widower at the age of 31 when his wife died in childbirth. In subsequent years he also lost his mother and all three of his children. Alphonsus developed a life of prayer, intense piety, and rigorous penances, with a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother under her title of the Immaculate Conception. His desire for the religious life increased and he attempted to join the Jesuits as a late vocation, but his lack of education made him a poor candidate. To amend his deficiency he went back to school, while begging alms to support himself and enduring ridicule from his much younger classmates. After a long delay he was finally admitted to the Jesuits when he was nearly 40 years old, but only as a lay brother. He was given the humble job of a porter (doorkeeper), a job which he served with dedication for 46 years. Many people within the religious community, as well as many visitors, recognized his holiness and sought his advice and spiritual council. St. Peter Claver was one of his disciples, and St. Alphonsus is credited for directing him in his mission to African slaves. St. Alphonsus was known for his rigorous obedience and discipline, and for suffering from scrupulosity, temptations, and attacks from the devil. He took his final vows with the Jesuits at the age of 54. He continued to serve and even preach sermons into his 80's. He is credited with popularizing the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, copies of which he stockpiled and distributed.









Jesuit College
Palma, Majorca, Spain



How to celebrate Halloween in Spain (a festival invented in Galicia)

The Halloween holiday is celebrated across Spain as a national bank holiday which is known as a puente and it ensures that everyone has three days off.

Three day celebration

All Saints Day falls on a Sunday this year which means technically there is no reason to give anyone a day off to get back to their village and visit their departed loved-ones. But this is Spain and everyone loves a puente so a bank holiday has been added on Monday, just so people can have a three day weekend.

Dressing up

Children dress up in spooky costumes for their last day of school before the Halloween long weekend, oh and the teachers too, and things generally focus on the creepy. Think witches, zombies and devils rather than superheroes.

Galicia: The birthplace of Halloween

In Galicia, the northwestern region famous for its rich Gaelic folklore and ghost legends, Halloween is a seriously big deal. In fact, some argue that it was invented here. Known as Samaín the ancient autumn festival celebrated in Galicia was a precursor of America's Halloween.

In Galician villages such as Cedeira, O Vicedo and Narón, kids and adults have for centuries dressed up as spirits and magical beings, organized death marches, carved scary faces in pumpkins and gone trick or treating.

It starts on October 31st with the Noite dos Calacús (Night of the Pumpkins) with pumpkin carving, costume parties, bonfires, rituals. 

Look out for the queimada – a  hot punch made from orujo mixed with herbs, sugar, lemon peel, apple and coffee beans. It is brewed in a special clay pot and stirred with a ladle while incantations banishing evil are chanted over it as it burns with a blue flame.

Catalonia, chestnuts and witches

Across Catalonia, towns usually stage the traditional Castanyada – the traditions of which date back hundreds of years and involve a funereal feast of vegetables, nuts, chestnuts and sweet bread rolls. 

Halloween is also known in Spain as Dia de las Brujas and you’ll see creepy decorations of witches propped up all over the place.

The small town of Sant Feliu Sasserra near Bages in Catalonia really celebrates the witches honoring 23 women sentenced to death for witchcraft during the Inquisition.

All Saints Day

November 1st is the Día de Todos los Santos when families gather in cemeteries to tend to their loved ones’ graves taking fresh flowers and special pastries.

These include the peculiarly named buñuelos de viento – nun’s farts – which are bite-sized donuts filled wih cream; huesos de santo – bones of the holy – which are finger sized tubes of marzipan; and panellets, nutty pasties.


It’s not all about ghouls and ghosts.

The Spanish Catholic Church has been fighting back against the popularity of the “satanic festival” of Halloween by urging good Christian children to forgo zombie, ghost and devil outfits and instead dress up as “saints, virgins and apostles”.

Recents years have seen the rise of “Holywins” parties thrown by churches or catholic schools with children dressing up their favorite saint, a monk or nun, or even one of the apostles. With Holywins, which stands for Holiness Wins, a festival and reclaiming of the Catholic feast of All Saints. 





  • 3 eggs, divided

  • zest of one small lemon

  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) packed brown sugar

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) Yukon gold potato or sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed with a fork

  • 18 ounces (500 grams) almond flour

  • 12 ounces (350 grams) raw pine nuts or finely-chopped almonds (or a 50/50 mix of both)


  1. Make the marzipan. In a large mixing bowl*, stir together one egg, lemon zest and brown sugar until combined.  Add in the mashed (cooked) potato and stir until combined.  Gradually add in the almond flour and stir (or you may need to use your hands) the dough until it is completely combined, taking care not to overwork the dough.  At this point, you can either begin to roll out the dough.  Or you can shape it into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 48 hours until ready to use.

  2. Roll the panellets. Roll the marzipan dough into 1-inch balls (for the pine nut version) or 1-inch little logs (for the almond version), about 20 grams each.  Whisk one egg in a small bowl, and place the pine nuts or almonds in a second bowl.  Dip a dough ball into the egg mixture until it is completely coated.  Then transfer the dough ball to the bowl of nuts, and use your hands to gently press the nuts so that the entire ball is covered.  (This takes some patience and will require you to get your hands dirty, so plan for this step to take some time.)

  3. Prepare the oven.  Heat the oven to 425°F.

  4. Brush the panellets.  Place the rolled panellets onto a large parchment-covered baking sheet.  Whisk the final egg plus 1 tablespoon of water together in a small bowl.  Then brush each of the panellets with the egg wash.

  5. Bake. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops of the panellets are lightly golden.  (Be sure to keep a close eye on them so that the nuts do not burn.)

  6. Serve.  Enjoy the panellets while they are nice and warm.  Or you can store them in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.




There are many myths and mysteries surrounding the ritual of making queimada, the “fire drink” of Galicia, which is thought to have originated in ancient times when Celts established villages and settled in the region of Galicia, though historians dispute if this timeline is possible. Although this drink is made with orujo, a strong liqueur similar to grappa, much of the alcohol is burned off in the flames. This is the perfect specialty drink for an outdoor Halloween or winter party, as it's traditionally served at family gatherings. It's also popular on "Witches Night," also known as St. John's Night, which is celebrated annually on the night of June 23. (Summer Solstice)

In addition to the tradition of the beverage itself, there's a legend of an accompanying prayer that's reportedly said in Gallego, the language of Galicia, while the fire is lit. The prayer is meant to not only purify the drink but also ward off evil and share the beverage with family and friends no longer with you. It is said that the prayer goes back to Medieval times.


For the preparation of this drink, you will need a large fireproof clay pot or bowl, sealed or glazed on the interior and a very long-handled wooden spoon to stir the queimada. Sets of clay pots and glasses made specifically for this purpose are available through grocery stores and websites specializing in Spanish food.



  • 1 liter orujo or Spanish brandy

  • 1 liter dry red wine

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon peel strips, from 1 medium lemon

  • 1/2 an apple, peeled, cored and cut in 4 wedges

  • Scant 1/4 cup whole coffee beans


  1. Place the clay pot or bowl on a fireproof table of atop a cold BBQ grill. Be sure to have a large lid handy to put out the flames.

  2. Pour approximately 4 tablespoons orujo and 1 tablespoon sugar into a small glass and stir to dissolve sugar, then set aside.

  3. Pour the rest of the orujo, wine and remaining sugar into the clay bowl and stir. Add the lemon peel, apple slices and coffee beans and stir again.

  4. Pour the orujo and sugar mixture from the glass into a ladle and light it on fire. Carefully move the ladle very close to the clay pot until the orujo mixture in the pot catches fire. Stir frequently until the flames turn blue. Slide the lid over the pot to put out the flames. Serve hot.

  5. Enjoy!

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