Día de la Mascarada is Our Version of Halloween in Costa Rica
Though Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in Costa Rica, October 31st is traditionally celebrated as Día de la Mascarada, or Day of the Masquerade. While more and more expats are making their home in the country and Halloween is continuing to become a more mainstream holiday, Día de la Mascarada celebrations take the festivity forefront.
With roots in the Spanish Carnival, Día de la Mascarada is known for its parades featuring large, masked characters, music, clowns, and dancing. While the Spaniards brought the costumed celebration to Costa Rica, it wasn’t an official holiday until 1996, when the Ministry of Culture established Día de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense as an annual parade.
The masks are created in the visage of famous characters, political figures, and national heroes, and are made using a papier-mâché like process. “The bigger the better” is the goal when it comes to the giant masks, or “masquerades.” One of the most striking types of masks seen, these large masks are mounted on bamboo or wire, often engulfing the wearer’s entire body. You’ll likely see represented the Devil, Death, the Witch, and even La Llorona, a terrifying local legend.
In addition to the parades, Costa Rican culture is celebrated during the national festivities, with educational activities, the procession and display of masks, and tributes to leading mask makers. You’ll also find food, fireworks, and many chances to listen to local music, both traditional folk and current.
Masked participants will parade down the street in most major cities, dancing and sometimes chasing on-lookers along the way. Accompanying the process are Maroons, small bands of amateur musicians who are usually self-taught. They generally compose their own music, none of which is committed to the page, but rather passed down and taught by ear.
Traditionally a pagan holiday, the Halloween we know in the United States never really took root in the predominately Catholic Costa Rica, though it has steadily been gaining popularity over the years. While not seen as a mainstream holiday quite yet, Halloween is being celebrated more and more often with costume parties taking place in people’s homes and in various bars and discotheques, and is seen as more of an opportunity to get together rather than an excuse to go door-to-door begging for candy.
If you’ll be near San Jose, you may want to participate in the annual Zombie Walk, where you can dress as either a survivor or a zombie, and gather with the horde on a different kind of parade, shuffling through the streets and trying to frighten passers-by. The Zombie Parade is an example of how Ticos are adopting more mainstream Halloween activities, and is gaining in popularity each year.
Whether you choose to participate in Día de la Mascarada, Halloween, or both, you’ll have no shortage of ways to celebrate come this October 31st.