MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -- Like their U.S. counterparts, children in
Mexico find Halloween irresistible. What could be better than a holiday in
which it is OK to dress up in a costume, collect free candy, and skip
But as Halloween grows in popularity with each passing Oct. 31, many
Mexicans are concerned it is eclipsing a sacred national tradition: Day of the
Day of the Dead falls on All Souls Day -- Nov. 2 -- and is celebrated with
particular gusto in Mexico, where families visit cemeteries to offer food and
flowers for their lost relatives, whose portraits are placed on altars at home.
It has centuries of tradition, combining All Souls Day with two pre-Hispanic
holidays in honor of the dead. Day of the Dead is a festive rather than sad
occasion, and supported by the local Roman Catholic Church.
The two holidays have been on a collision course for several years.
Kids no longer go trick-or-treating just on Oct. 31, instead extending
it up to
Day of the Dead. Jack-o'-lanterns have replaced the trademark Day of the
Dead skull in supermarkets and on street corners. Witches and goblins
adorn many homes instead of the late relative's portrait.
"Day of the Dead is a family day. Halloween is a superficial and commercial
holiday," said Homero Aridjis, an author and environmentalist who has
written critically about the Halloween boom.
"I fear that for the moment it is irreversible," he said. "It's a holiday
tendency to grow."
Like many Mexicans, Aridjis has stopped giving out candy, especially after
seeing up to 100 children at a time bang on his door long into the night.
Others go a step further, posting signs on the door saying they do not
Some U.S. influences like McDonald's and American football are popular
here, but they will not replace tacos or soccer in Mexican hearts.
Halloween, however, is seen as more sinister because it threatens to crowd
out a distinctly Mexican and religious tradition.
"Halloween is a foreign holiday that is distant from the Latin American
mentality and Mexican culture," said Father Sergio Ruiz, head of the local
Catholic Church's office on religious customs.
"Halloween has found a space here, pressured by all that is behind it:
whole lot of marketing and consumerism," he said.
Room for both?
Yet Ruiz said he believes Halloween has a long way to go before catching
Day of the Dead, especially in the countryside, where Halloween is
practically unheard of.
At the Kinder Kin preschool in Mexico City, principal Flora Barragan's
students celebrate both holidays, and the school uses the occasion to
educate the children about their histories.
"We like to celebrate both traditions. The kids just love Halloween," she
"The problem is that we Mexicans don't conserve our traditions at home.
we put up an altar at home and went to all the effort that we do for
Halloween, decorating our homes and inviting the children to knock on our
doors, then we wouldn't lose the tradition."
Copyright 1999 Reuters.