Halloween in Latin America

Halloween celebrations have always been something of a party; from the first Celtic gatherings to ward off the restless souls and ghosts on Hallows Eve, to the mass parades and celebrations in Mexico in remembrance of their loved ones passed over to the afterlife.

Nowadays however, it is the American-ised sugar fest, so far from the solemn celebration of All Saints and All Souls Day that it originated from, that dominates; an opportunity to dress ourselves up in bizarre costumes ranging from the scariest of Jokers to the silliest of pumpkins in an excuse to get a little bit too drunk and enjoy some autumnal-themed food.

This week I have just arrived in Santiago de Chile, ready to start the second internship of my year abroad, and I am intrigued to see how the Chileans celebrate Halloween, if at all. Mexico is of course the city famous for its celebrations of Dia de los Muertos (All Souls Day) which take place on November 1st and 2nd. They dress up in costumes, mostly skeleton-themed, and celebrate on the streets with dances, parades, food and treats. It seems that this sort of celebration is not unusual in Latin America, with the Chileans also engaging in the ‘Trick of Treat’ game, originating from when children would disguise themselves and go out asking for money and food. 

Outside of Mexico and Chile, Halloween celebrations are much less dynamic, with only some countries having any sort of acknowledgement of the day at all. Peru and Argentina show some recognition of the season predominantly through chains and brand resturants, such as the famous Starbucks, which are determined to force their pumpkin-spice themed beverage on their customers.

Colombia has a celebration called Tintilillo de Cartagenda de Indias, which is celebrated on November 1st and is the closest thing to a Halloween celebration they have. The children go out onto the streets and sing songs in the hope of gaining money or treats from others. It seems that in whichever country you are, any form of Halloween celebrations involves something delicious to eat! 

One thing is for sure is that Halloween celebrations in Latin America are quite far from the boozy, fancy dress sugar fests of America and now England.

Latin American families are more likely to take a visit to the cemetery for their loved ones, going to their graves with flowers and gifts, that they are to have a big fancy dress party. In fact, it is only really the children who engage in any sort of activity which we would recognise as ‘Halloween’.

Their celebrations remain much truer to the traditional origins of All Saints Day and All Souls Day – a remembrance of those who have passed through the afterlife, rather than an attempt to imagine what might be coming back over…