For some years now, the Basque Country has been recovering one of its oldest and deep-rooted traditions, that of celebrating La Gau Baltza (Black Night) or Arimen Gaua (Night of Souls).
Lighted pumpkins, costumes with fabrics or white sheets flood the Plaza Ibarreta de Gorliz on October 31. A fun night where you‘ll be scared.
Origin and history of Gau Baltza
This celebration takes place on the night of 31st October and has a special aesthetic, especially because it is related to the world of the dead. Apparently, the origin of this night is Celtic and it must have been a festival that was also celebrated in the Basque Country but which disappeared from popular custom around the 20th century. According to some writings, when the day of the souls arrived, the children would take the vegetables they found in the vegetable gardens, such as pumpkins, turnips and potatoes, hollow them out and cut out terrifying faces, then put a lit candle inside them and dress them in rags to make them look scary. There are two versions of what they did with them. According to one version, the children frightened other children and even adults with these dolls and went from house to house asking for them. However, according to the other version, these dolls were placed outside the houses and on the roadsides to scare away the evil spirits that rose on All Saints’ Day.
In any case, we can say that what we know today as Halloween is taken from this Celtic festival.
How will we celebrate Gau Baltza in Gorliz?
This year in Gorliz we propose to bring back this traditional festival which is “Gau Baltza” by means of games and events that we will organise. There will also be people in costume, but we would be grateful if you would respect the traditional atmosphere that inspires the festival, as it is not a Halloween party.
To this end, as part of the activities, there will be workshops on Gau Baltza masks and make-up.