Scary Holiday Not Big Tradition in Costa Rica

October 29, 2004

IN Costa Rica, Halloween is not officiallycelebrated, but it appears to be seeping into theculture.Catholic priest William Rodríguez said theCatholic Church in Costa Rica does not hold a“fixed position” on the subject of Halloween.However, he personally believes Halloween“has nothing to do with the Costa Rican culture.The festivity steals our cultural identity, and itcannot be positive for any community to havechildren going about demanding treats with thethreat of pulling pranks on you.”According to historian Carlos Fallas, whoworks for the Ministry of Culture, Costa Ricansdecreed Oct. 31 the “National Day ofMasquerades” in 1996 as an attempt to rescue thecountry’s cultural identity – which many CostaRican believe damaged by adopting the NorthAmerican tradition. The Day of Masquerades iscelebrated each year with parades and typicalCosta Rican costumes.This year, the parade starts at 5 p.m. inHeredia. It will include traditional dances, giants,masks, oxcarts and will culminate with a smallparty at the central park of San Rafael deHeredia. For info, call 261-4485.TWENTY to 30 years ago, Halloween was“initially restricted to the bourgeoisie, peoplewho had traveled or studied in North Americaand brought the tradition back,” Fallas said,adding that trick-or-treating was practiced inupscale neighborhoods such as Los Yoses, east ofSan José.A commercial boom during the late 1970sand 80s initially brought Halloween costumesand horror movies to Costa Rica. It becameresponsible for the spread of the traditionthroughout the country, where variations havedeveloped from the North American tradition,Fallas said.One Costa Rican grandmother who preferrednot to reveal her name, said she remembers celebratingher first Halloween in 1975, when herdaughter was 12.“We used to live in Quepos, where there wereno signs of Halloween. When we moved to SanJosé, and our children were a bit older, they starteddressing up and going trick-or-treating. Theycould go by themselves, things were safe backthen,” she said.In Costa Rica, trick-or-treaters shout“Halloween! Halloween!” from door to door,rather than the traditional “trick or treat.”RANDALL Calvo, 23, remembers his childhoodyears trick-or-treating in Costa Rica in theearly 1990s.“All the kids got ready around 6 p.m. to goout and ask for candies,” Calvo recalled. “Peoplepainted their faces and some wore masks. They(the kids) always dressed up like witches andprinces.”But Calvo remembers vividly when theHalloween tradition ended for him.“The priest told us that Halloween was thedevil and God didn’t allow children to celebrateHalloween,” he said. “It felt like the fun wasover. All the kids were so sad. Those were thebest moments when I was a kid.”

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