Spooky season has always held a special place in my heart. From trick-or-treating with my siblings, to resourcefully creating costumes from my closet (Frida Kahlo, Holly Golightly, and Little Red Riding Hood, to name a few), to attending costume parties with friends, to eventually throwing my own Halloween bashes, the day has never been short of excitement.
Halloween is a quintessential U.S. holiday, marked by creativity, costumes, and eeriness. And it’s that tie to the paranormal that has kept the day off-limits for some Latines. From Latine neighborhoods here and across Latin America and the Caribbean, there are the homes with “No triko tri” signs outside their houses. Oftentimes, these Latine households view Halloween through deeply rooted religious beliefs that define the holiday as dangerous or contrary to their faiths.
Some religions stigmatize Halloween due to its historical associations with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which recognized the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Participants believed Samhain was a time when the boundary between the living and the dead blurred, leading to practices such as lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward off evil spirits. Some religions embraced Halloween, but as Halloween incorporated elements of these pagan traditions, other religious groups came to see the holiday with skepticism or disapproval, claiming they were “cosas del diablo.”
As parents and the church told young Latine children that Halloween was evil and dangerous, many of them saw their classmates dress up and get their fill of sugary treats, making them question why they couldn’t participate, too. In the spirit of exploring the multifaceted nature of Halloween within Latine communities, Refinery29 Somos spoke with four Latinas who did not celebrate Halloween as children and why and how they do as adults. Their stories offer a unique glimpse into the diverse ways in which Latines perceive and embrace Halloween, celebrating their cultural heritage while making new traditions of their own.
Valerie Rodezno, Guatemalan-Salvadoran American
I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As a child, Halloween was considered a satanic holiday, where people with malicious intentions gathered to harm the community. It was seen as an occasion for making fun of Catholic figures and engaging in activities against our religion, such as promiscuity and vandalism. Because of these beliefs, my parents didn't allow me to celebrate Halloween. Instead, we attended church-organized fall festivals as an alternative.
As a child, my feelings were mixed. I felt jealous of my peers who could dress up and join in the festivities. I wanted to participate, but my family's beliefs prevented me from doing so. This made me feel different and somewhat isolated from my friends.
My perspective on Halloween began to change when I moved away for college. I realized that celebrating the holiday didn't make me a bad Catholic or person. I started participating in Halloween events, with some initial insecurity.
Today, I see Halloween as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and unleash my inner child. It allows me to dress up as characters I admire and spend quality time with loved ones. I've learned that celebrating Halloween doesn't diminish my faith or worth as a person. It's a chance to have fun and create new memories with friends.
My journey from not celebrating Halloween due to religious beliefs to embracing it as an adult has taught me that traditions should not dictate our happiness or sense of self-worth.
Mari Arguello, Paraguayan-Honduran American
When I transitioned from private to public school in eighth grade, I realized how different my upbringing was from my peers. I felt like I was missing out on the fun of Halloween and couldn't understand why it was considered so taboo.
It wasn't until I got married and moved out of my parents' house at around 23 years old that I started celebrating Halloween. My husband and I began hosting Halloween parties, complete with costume contests and games, inviting friends and family to join in the festivities. When we had our own children, we started handing out candy and participating in Halloween activities like trunk-or-treat events.
While my dad didn't think Halloween was a big deal, my mom did, and we followed her rules. I didn't want to impose strict restrictions or shame on my children. I believed in allowing them to have their own experiences and make their own decisions about how and when to celebrate holidays. Now, my young daughters love Halloween, happy at the opportunity to dress up and enjoy all the candy they can.
Halloween is what you make of it. While some choose to focus on mischief and chaos, my family sees it as an opportunity to bond, have fun, and be in community with our neighbors. Halloween has become a beautiful family tradition that allows us to create lasting memories together.
Raquel Reichard, Puerto Rican
For us, Halloween was a time of mysticism and caution. While I was curious about the fun side of the holiday, my religious background kept me from celebrating it. Instead, my family and I attended fall festivals at our church, as an alternative. These events offered games, face painting, and candy. Looking back at them, they were actually pretty fun.
As I got older and my family transitioned to non-denominational Christian churches that were a little more liberal, our approach to Halloween shifted. We’d go trick-or-treating at the mall. One year, I remember my mom dressing up with me. I was about 9 years old, and I was Posh Spice while my mom was Sporty Spice. With time, we embraced the lighter side of Halloween, though I always remember my mom thoroughly inspecting all the candy in our pillowcases to make sure no one poisoned the treats.
As an adult, my best friend, Angelica, who passed away, helped me appreciate Halloween; she adored the holiday and always had the best costumes and makeup. Celebrating Halloween with her meant we had something planned every weekend in October. In Orlando, there’s always so much to do: there’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, pumpkin patches, spooky cornfield mazes to explore, scary movie drive-ins, and Halloween-themed bars and parties. One year, we spent Halloween in Puerto Rico and learned about Yellow Halloween, an annual music event sponsored by Medalla Light where artists like Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro, Nio García, Jon Z, and so many others participate in free costume concerts throughout the archipelago. I love watching and learning about the different ways the holiday is celebrated across cultures. Since Ang passed away, I continue to celebrate the holiday with her daughter. Our October traditions are now more family-friendly, keeping the spirit of Ang’s love for Halloween alive.
Estefania Garcia Bautista, Mexican American
My upbringing was deeply rooted in Catholicism. My family attended church regularly on Sundays, and I even served as the president of the youth club at our church for several years. When it came to Halloween, my family held a negative view of the holiday. Our house remained dark, with no lights on to signify that our home wouldn’t be giving out candy or joining in the festivities.
However, our family had an alternative way of honoring the deceased, especially during Día de Muertos. In our living room, we would set up an altar adorned with photographs of our departed loved ones. We would decorate it with offerings such as bread, chocolate, candles, and fruits, all while sharing cherished stories and memories about those who had passed away.
This ritual became a heartfelt way for us to remember and celebrate the lives of our ancestors.
As a child, Halloween filled me with fear, and at times, I felt like I was missing out on the fun and excitement others around me were enjoying. Still, I obeyed the strict beliefs of my family and the church.
My perspective on Halloween began to shift during my college years when I moved away for the first time. I watched as my roommates and friends celebrated the holiday, and I started questioning the negative beliefs I had grown up with. Today, I look forward to Halloween and bought tickets to Cumbiatón in Los Angeles this year. I look forward to attending this party, putting together a creative costume, and dancing the night away with friends. Halloween has become an opportunity for me to let loose and express myself fully.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.