El Halloween in Latin America undoubtedly came from the strong influence North America and specially the U.S. has always exerted on our Latin countries. If we look back at where all started, Halloween or All Hallows Eve has ancient roots stretching back to the times of the Druids, when people believed evil spirits roamed the earth on October 31 and had to be collected by the Lord of Darkness, Lord Samhain.
Over the centuries the holiday transformed into a much more commercial event more about cheap thrills than any real spiritual connection to the world of the dead. Like many aspects of American culture, the American version of Halloween has spread to many other countries, including Hispanic ones.
Today, we widely celebrate Halloween in Latin America as an excuse for a party in many major cities, though communities in the countryside largely ignore Halloween in favor of All Saints Day, I guess because of our Roman Catholic background that stemmed from the conquest.
If you’re looking to experience Halloween in South America, get ready to find Halloween parties in bars and clubs from Argentina to Colombia. In Peru Halloween has to compete with a Creole music event, so Peruvians don’t widely celebrate it even in the cities, but you can always find an expat bar with a few plastic pumpkins and a costume party.
Chileans call call Halloween la Noche de Brujas and Bolivians call it El Jailonween in reference to the wealthy expat Jailon Paceños that popularized it. But perhaps no other country knows how to throw a Hispanic Halloween like Colombia.
Main Aspects of Halloween in Colombia
Costumes: Adults and children wear costumes on the day and night of Halloween. Many adults even wear their costumes to work in offices and stores. For children, the costumes tend to be more fun than scary. You’ll see a lot of superheroes, cartoon characters, princesses, pirates, etc. but probably no vampires or soldiers. You’ll notice one major difference from the American sort of Halloween costumes in that not many in Colombia have their entire face covered with a mask.
School Activities: Most schools celebrate Halloween with special events that parents are encouraged to attend. For example there might be a Halloween play or a costume parade with the parents as judges for awards like “best costume.”
Kids typically also get to enjoy special Halloween treats including candy and baked goods, and teachers often decorate their rooms with all the traditional symbols of Halloween like ghosts, spiders, witches, and jack-o-lanterns.
Trick or Treating: Parents do take their costumed children trick or treating for Halloween in Colombia. The kids call “tricky tricky Halloween” and receive candy from their neighbors. Families that don’t have a nice neighborhood to trick or treat in go to malls and shopping centers in the early evening, where a special trick or treat session takes place with the kids going around to each store and receiving candy.
Parties: Of course no Halloween in Latin America would be complete without a party. In Colombia, you will see the somewhat surprising sight of costumed people dancing to Salsa, either in the bars and clubs or in individual families’ homes.
Celebrating Halloween in Latin America can be very similar to that of the US however, we mix in our traditions when partying and enjoying the foods. We celebrate with lots of candy and costumes but if we can throw in tamales, picada, and some delicious drinks like coke and rum, guaro and tequila it all improves.