With Halloween and other seasonal holidays coming up, my host parents and I have been discussing a lot of what we do and do not believe. Personally I love Halloween as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but during breakfast a couple days ago while I was telling my host mother this she told me she does not believe in Halloween. There seems to be a lot changes happening in Costa Rica around commercial holidays from the United States. My host brother tells me that ten years ago there was no such thing as Halloween or even Santa Claus in Costa Rica. Only recently costumes, decorations and Halloween parties have become slightly popular with the younger generation. To my host mom Halloween is a ritual she just does not believe in; to the younger generation “if American farts, Costa Rica farts.” It is a crude way of commenting on how commercial holidays and consumerism from the United States has taken over Costa Rica’s mindset.
A majority of the Ticos I have talked to about celebrating Halloween celebrated this past weekend and about half of them did not know that Halloween is on the 31st of October. My host mother thinks of Halloween as similar to el Dia de Los Muertos – her family does not celebrate that either. However I learned that there is a large Chinese population in Costa Rica who do celebrate Dia de Los Muertos on November 2nd. Again about 10 years ago el Dia de Los Muertos used to be a national holiday and no one went to work, however now most Costa Ricans do not celebrate it and do not take the day off of work. Some even consider it strange that the Chinese population here brings food to the cemeteries to celebrate with their dead.
It is a little appalling to see how much American consumerism has influenced Costa Rican culture. My host family does not, and never has believed in Santa Claus because the consumer tradition surrounding him is also barely 10 years old in Costa Rica. Only now are Costa Rican parents having to tell their children about Santa Claus because even before October was half over Santa-themed decorations infiltrated local stores. While not every store in sight has Halloween or Christmas decorations there is still at least one store even in the smallest of towns that has some kind of Santa or spider web decoration. It is fascinating to see through the eyes of my host family who has been around to see this change and with every new holiday I mention I get the same hesitant answer: “We don’t believe in that.”