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A different Halloween. The day of the masquerades in Costa Rica

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The day of the Dead or Halloween is celebrated all around the world with costumes of ghosts, witches or characters of different movies, colorful masks, and endless ideas for creative decoration to celebrate this day. But here in Costa Rica, we have another tradition. On October 31, we celebrate the National Day of the Masquerades!

It is a party full of magic and colors that is celebrated in Costa Rica for many years. While I was reading a little bit about its history, I found out that everything started when they brought masks from Spain, where they were called “Gigantes y Cabezudos” (en: Giants and Big Heads) which they used at popular festivities at medieval Europe. This was gradually changing and taking new forms until it became the main spectacle of the festivities (celebrations in the communities in commemoration of the saint patron of the town) in many towns in Costa Rica. The festivals were organized to collect donations that were then invested in the same town, for example at the town where I grew up, they sold typical costarican food, cattle auctions, gunpowder games, live- music with Cimarronas (music groups) activities of the local church, and games for children and adults. It was really funny and we were always waiting for the festivities to begin.


What everyone was waiting for were the masquerades. For those, they made parades with live- music (drums, trumpets, and saucers) and many people disguised with giant masks and costumes marched and dances with them. Places like Barva de Heredia, Escazú, and Cartago celebrate this festival the most and in their parades, it is common to see characters like El Diabolo (the devil), La Muerte (the death), La Segua, La Llorona, la Giganta, la Calvera, el Cadejos z el Padre sin Cabeza (the Father without head), as well as other characters of the modern costarican and international stories, political personalities, soccer players and many others.

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They also played games and the disguised people were part of it. La Giganta, for example, was balanced over all heads and it was a funny surprise when this giant head came up over you, which could be a little bit scary. The character followed with a delegated branch the youngest ones in the audience, threatening to shatter them. I know it sounds a little bit frightening, but it was a really funny show and nothing dangerous.

Today, the activities continue and in 1996 the government of Costa Rica signed a decree to declare October 31st of each year the National Day of the Traditional Costarican Masquerades.


If you go to these parades, you will notice that the masks are artworks made by very skilled and creative craftsmen. At their shops where they make them, which you can find at the mentioned places, they are still made traditionally, modeling first with mus and then coating it with several layers of newspaper and glue, to then paint and decorate them. Some people make their costumes for the masks and very important: a metal or wood frame, to give more height and presence to the character.

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All in all, activities like this one show the pure costarican traditions, the culture, the artwork, and the happy personality of the Ticos.

For this reason, I invite you to be a part of them and get to know the activities they are doing in the towns, instead of dressing up as a skull and go to a bar at the night of October 31th, you can experience the pure and authentic traditions of a country full of historical surprises and legends in a magical night.


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The 20th edition of the National Meeting of the Traditional Costarican Masquerades will be celebrated on Thursday, October 31th 2019, at 6 p.m. at the Central Avenue of Cartago. 

44 groups of Cimarronas, masquerades, folklore groups, stilts, and circus artists will participate in this activity.

Don’t forget to leave your comments or questions down below. We will be happy to hear from you.

Thursday, 31 October 2019 12:00 Written by César Otárola
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César Otárola


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