I found Halloween in Ecuador. Well, to be exact, there was a sign in a bar — in English, of course — announcing a Halloween fiesta.
In truth, this was a gig largely aimed at foreigners.
Even for seasoned travelers, it is always a shock to realize what a big cultural bubble we all live in — everywhere.
In the U.S., we long ago lost the roots of Halloween, and its origins of All Hallow’s Eve, celebrated on Oct. 31. But in largely Catholic countries, like Ecuador and Poland, the holiday this time of year is called the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), or in Ecuador, Day of the Deceased. It’s not a time of ghouls and witches, but a somber time to remember family and friends who have passed on.
It is observed on Nov. 2, this Wednesday. The Ecuadorian family I am staying with while I study Spanish were not at breakfast Friday. They went ahead to the gravesite of the grandfather who died some years ago. They went early — to avoid the crowds on Wednesday.
I recalled how shocked my Polish friends were when they moved to the United States and experienced their first Halloween. They were profoundly upset by the sudden appearance of skeletons and ghoulish masks on TV, in shops and stores, not to mention on their doorstep, at a time they view as serious and sacred.
On the Day of the Dead in Poland, families go to the gravesites of loved ones for a morning of reflection, often bringing food to each while they reminisce and pray.
There is no right or wrong here. Just differences. I loved Halloween as a kid and recall fondly how I wiped burnt cork on my face and dressed as a hobo. (No corpse for me!)
These days, I hear Halloween is gaining a big foothold in Britain. And also in select bars in Quito and Cuenca, apparently.
Credit: USA Today, www.usatoday.com