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This famous festivity is a preferred one for many people.  In Costa Rica Halloween is celebrated the way America does, but also recently a special interest to rescue more autochthonous traditions has emerged. Learn more about it here.

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Costa Rica Halloween, the traditional celebration

Every October 31st, all over Costa Rica, children and others not so young, disguise themselves, go to a party and fill the streets with the popular “trick or treat”.

For some, this “foreigner” tradition is all about having fun and for others is considered an alien to our culture and even a threat to our traditions.

In 1996, a small town called Aserrí, located in the province of Alajuela, decided to organize a “Pasacalles” or parade to give Halloween a more traditional sense. To celebrate this initiative, the government declared one year later, the Day of the Costa Rican Masquerade.  But what is a masquerade?

The history of masquerades or Mascaradas go back to the colonial era. This type of celebration is a perfect example of the fusion of both European and pre-Columbian customs.

A masquerade is a celebration that takes place in the streets, a parade. They join a Cimarrona or traditional musical group with the “giantesses” or people dressed up in large masks and colorful costumes. The inevitable characters are the devil, death, Segua, La Llorona, the Father without a Head and recently some outstanding politician or popular culture character. These characters dance through the streets chasing children and entertaining everyone.

If you are visiting our country soon, try to experience a night of Mascarada, it is a fun and culturally enriching experience. A Costa Rica Halloween can be fun in so many new ways!

 

Halloween, how it started

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All Hallow’s Eve Celebration. Image courtesy of Catholic Online

Contrary to what many people think, Halloween does not find its roots in evil or dark rituals, much less an American invention to ask for sweets. History tells us that Halloween comes from the celebration of the Western Christian Church named Allhallowtide.  This festivity encompasses the Triduum of All Saints’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). It is believed that the Church adopted these celebrations influenced by the Celtic pagan celebration called Samhain.  There is also evidence of the influence of the Germanic celebration of the dead.

The name Halloween means Saints evening and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve.

The trick-or-treat custom comes from the “Souling” tradition, in which groups of children and poor people used to go door-to-door offering prayers for the souls of the relatives in exchange of soul cakes, a round cake filled with sweet spices and topped with the mark of a cross.

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Paint of the Souling tradition. Image courtesy of History Collection.

The disguising custom comes from the belief that the souls wandered the earth until All Saint´s Day, and in All Hallow’s Eve they had a final opportunity to seek revenge on their enemies, so people would use masks or customs to hide from any vengeful soul that could harm them.

 

Costa Rica Halloween, what to do

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Despite any controversy, Halloween is one of the most popular celebrations in the year.  Where ever you go, you will find children “trick-or-treating”, people professionally disguised and huge parties to have fun.

If you plan to visit Costa Rica, we recommend you stay in one of our luxurious vacation rentals and our concierge will help you plan a fun Halloween, the indigenous way or the regular way.  Contact us now!