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HomeTopicsArts and CultureHalloween in Costa Rica: The When, Where and How Masquerade day is...

Halloween in Costa Rica: The When, Where and How Masquerade day is Celebrated

In anticipation of Halloween Day, people all over the world dream of scary or comical elaborated costumes. Halloween is a festival celebrated in the U.S predominately. The Costa Rican Masquerade Day, known in the native Costa Rican, La Mascarada, is an adaption of Halloween Day in the U.S, usually celebrated on the 31st of October. It is a recent tradition in Costa Rica which has gained popularity in the country in the last few years.

Young locals have shot up the popularity of Halloween by celebrating it locally. Hence, the tradition of masquerading is coming back to life in Costa Rica. There is a tendency that you wouldn’t see a kid knocking at the door and trick-or-treating on the 31st of October, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be privy to a host of festivities activities. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to travel to Costa Rica to celebrate Halloween Day; it promises to be an awesome experience.

Origin of Masquerade Day

Masquerade Day’s tradition stems from carnival; this is a costume fiesta that was introduced into Costa Rica by the Spanish when they hit the shore of Central America. Among the parades held in the country, the masked parade is one of the most popular in the peninsular, and it is held or celebrated several times a year.

However, the tradition and festivities were fading at a fast pace, especially among the younger generation. The deliberate attempt to restore the passion and enthusiasm for the parades and reaffirm the importance of mask-making skills was made only two decades ago. On the 31st of October 1996, the first National Day of the Masquerade was held.

To make things more interesting, the pre-Columbian tribes had their own masked and costumed rituals. In present-day Costa Rica, the parades are a glorious combination of both ancient and modern traditions. As a result of this, the younger generation has been participating more in the carnival.

The Masquerade day first dates back to nearly 200 years ago, the 2nd of August 1824, in Cartago. Rafael Lito Valerin organized the first masquerade to honor the celebration of the Virgins of the Angels, the Patroness of Costa Rica. They are affectionately named La Negrita by the Costa Rican Natives.

Valerian had numerous jobs which one of them was being a masquerade artisan. It is believed that on a fateful day in the church of the Virgins of the Angels, Valerin was rummaging through old trunks, a place where large masks of Spanish origin were kept safe. He believed his expenditure was a sign, and he took the mask he found; he crafted out a wooden frame from the mask, and as a result, he created the first Giganta.

When is it Celebrated?

On the 31st of October. 1996, Day of Masquerade was proclaimed in Costa Rica by the Aqueserri Culture committee. To make the day significant, local artisans created traditional masquerades, and they all paraded them on the main roads of Josefino Canton.

This celebration was a traditional way for the Costa Ricans to have another relatable and associated festival as Halloween is not relatable to them. However, they incorporated the Halloween concept of dressing up; in place of costumes, they dress as legends of Costa Rica in Mantudos, known as espantos or ghosts like La Llorona.

Where is it celebrated?

The celebration of Masquerade day is celebrated all over Costa Rica. However, three cities stand out with the largest celebration: Cartago, Escazu, and Barva de Heredia. This is due to the actual craft-making skills of these locals: it is in these three towns that the best mask makers reside.

Unlike the name suggests, Costa Rican masks are not ordinary masks: they are usually oversized paper mache heads that depict prominent and popular characters from politics, mythology (in this case, devils and animals are popular), and characters from sports and films aren’t excluded.

Producing a mask is time-consuming and a tedious affair. The craftsman starts with a hand-made mould made from clay. This mould is left to dry for about a week; after that, the mold is carefully and meticulously covered with strips of paper attached with glue produced from flour and water. This process is duly followed until the fifteenth layer of paper have been added. Once the layers of paper added are dry, then the clay mould is removed, which leaves us with a perfectly shaped paper mache face.

It isn’t surprising that the Costa Rican mask is as exaggerated in their expression as they are in size. Some of these masks are comical, while some are grotesque. It wouldn’t be amusing when you find a giant popular lady mask that symbolizes the wealthy ladies of Colonial-era Costa Rica.

How it is celebrated

Masquerade Day, or La Mascarada as locally known, is a colourful parade of giant masks accompanied by an authentic local tradition that could be traced back to the pre-Colombian customs, carnival, and depiction of giants during the period of Spanish Colonization.

People on giant costumed puppets march the streets, and they are always accompanied by small music bands known as cimarron, whose skills are usually revered by the locals. Members of the cimarron band are self-taught because there are no scores to read, so each member learns through the ears.

They perform the processions. This musical part of Masquerade Day is believed to be among one of the oldest traditions in Costa Rica, and it’s one that the Ministry of Culture protects to make sure the tradition doesn’t fade away.

Final Thoughts

This festival is a glamorous event that connects all the eclectic attributes combined to create a unique country.

You are likely not to get trick-or-treat, and you may not adore the pumpkin attire; however, the memory you will have will be one of the most colourful, historic and endearing festivals you have ever attended. Never forget, this is Costa Rica, the country isn’t short of delectable food, so you are sure to have a nice treat to accompany your fantastic celebration.

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