In the Canary Islands, the word "finaos" or "finados", which means "deceased", refers to a popular island festival that takes place on the night before All Souls' Day, celebrated on 1 November. During the Noche de Finaos it was customary to worship the deceased and offer suffrages to the souls.
What are the Finaos?
In the olden days, the Finaos was a practice in which family, friends and neighbours gathered together. They would stay up all night telling jokes, telling stories and debating, as well as consuming the fruits of the season, chestnuts, walnuts, apples, and drinking sweet wine, aniseed or honey rum to combat the freezing temperatures of the autumn season.
Customs of the Noche de Finaos
As for the customs of this celebration, although they have changed over time, some of them are still maintained, such as kneading the bread of Finados, making fritters, egg bread, botadas, empanadas, among others.
On this day, the youngest ones visited the houses of the village, carrying a sack and asking for "the saints". They knocked on the doors and when they were opened, they asked: "Are there any saints? The owners of the house would say "Yes" and put almonds, walnuts, dried figs or chestnuts in the sack.
In the afternoon, the oldest woman in each family remembered the dead. The mother or grandmother told anecdotes about the deceased of the family and made them present with her words, while everyone shared a snack.
Then came the Baile de los Finaos, where people went out into the street singing to the sound of malagueñas with the Ranchos de Ánimas. These groups, typical of the island of Fuerteventura, were made up of people who knew how to play an instrument or had a good singing voice.
The Ranchos de Ánimas, on special dates, would go around the villages singing or praying to the dead . In exchange they received small amounts of food or money to pay for the masses for the souls of the deceased. In the following link you can learn more about and listen to a real Rancho de Ánimas.
In the villages, the death of a person never went unnoticed, no neighbour was unaware of it. The house of the deceased became the centre of social activity. It can be thought that All Souls' Day has always existed, long before the church put a date on the festivity, as it coincides with the end of autumn, the end of the harvests and the preparation for winter.
Photos: San Juan de La Rambla Town Hall, Government of the Canary Islands, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, isladetenerifevivela.com