Blurred Lines between the Living and the Dead



Blurred Lines between the Living and the Dead

Andy Pruter

Andy is the owner operator of the tour outfitter Everyday Adventures.  You may reach him at

TURISMO, Matapalo Mayhem  Andy Pruter

It goes by many names:   All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Hallowed Eve, Halloween, Día de los Muertos. One thing is certain; it is the one holiday that transcends all races, ages and creeds in many countries.

It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes of animals to ward off ghosts.  It coincided with their new year, November 1, marking the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter often associated with human death.  Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the lines between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.  Hence, October 31 celebrated the ghosts of the dead returning to earth and became the ancient celebration of Samhain.

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs, becoming All Saints’ Day.  The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve, and later, Halloween.  By the ninth century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites.  In 1000 AD, the Church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day upon which to honor the dead.  All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes of saints, angels and devils.

The three dates, October 31, November 1, and November 2 are collectively known in Roman Catholic tradition as Allhallowedtide triduum festival.

As time went on and new worlds were discovered, the celebration of Halloween morphed from an originally purely pagan ritual into the six-billion dollar commercial enterprise it is today.  In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants, helping to popularize the celebration from the confines of rigid Protestant beliefs of colonial New England.  Taking from Irish and English traditions, the New Americans began dressing up in costumes and going house to house asking for food or money becoming today’s institution of “trick or treating.”  By the late 1800’s there was a move in America to create a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft.

Much akin to All Souls’ Day, Día de los Muertos is originally a Mexican holiday now celebrated on November 1 and celebrated today beyond Mexico and inscribed in fact in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  Like Halloween, Dia de los Muertos was a pre-colonial Amerindian tradition celebrated in early Summer that was in Colonial times moved to November and blended with the Allhowedtime festival.  It commemorates the return of the deceased to their earthly homes and offers the living an opportunity to celebrate deceased loved ones on their spiritual journey.  Many families construct an altar decorated with candy, flowers, candles and food.  Often, a wash basin and towel are included so the spirit can clean up before indulging in the feast.  Other families stay overnight at the cemetery at which the decedent honoree is buried.

My experiences walking the lower Matapalo road on Halloween usually include much pre-party involvement between the parents of the kids wishing to celebrate and the homes/lodges willing to engage.  Finding a pumpkin to carve at the BM or Super-96 is a futile endeavor, so we have taken to carving piñas, sandías and papayas with some remarkable results!

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Piggie Papaya

Spookie pineapple

Sandía Shrek

Sandía Shrek

Themes have even crept into our nocturnal haunt.  Y’all know the Costa Rican legend, La Llorona right?  A repentant peasant woman desperately searching for her discarded children by calling along the streams and rivers . . ?  Cries and wails still echoing at night in the deep forest watersheds are attributed to the Crying Woman.  Well, this folklore was currently being discussed in our local homeschool curriculum.  So our neighbor Felipe donned a cloak and old woman’s mask and decamped to the nearby stream.  With the children gathered at the yoga deck of Tumba de las Olas, his plaintive wails rose through the night, eliciting goosebumps and even an unprompted positive ID of La Llorona!  Felipe’s wails became louder until finally, he jumped from the croton hedge onto the deck, scaring the daylights out of the fifteen or so huddled kids!  The unintentional PTSD from that experience will hopefully one day fade so that Halloween may once again be fun for some of these kiddies.  I know the parties in Puerto Jimenez are a blast and though I don’t have a picture of the Toucan Twins, they must be in a file of one of the Osa loons’ computers.

I myself, still harbor feelings of hurt (not really) when thinking my Shower Man costume was a lock to win the Iguana Lodge Halloween Costume Competition after hearing the thunderous applause from the crowd.  It was a slam dunk!  I was up against a store bought masked man who, ingeniously, threw candy out to the hordes of sugar-baked adolescents.  When the applause registered as a small tremor by OVSICORI’s seismic monitor, I knew I was doomed.  Upon hearing the first-place prize went to none other than our local dentist, it made me all the more aware I should have stayed in school.

Trick or Treat kids!

Spongbob No Pants and Squidward, aka Islamic Nurse Maid (Halloween 2003)

Spongbob No Pants and Squidward, aka Islamic Nurse Maid (Halloween 2003)

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