A very special day is approaching for several cultures including the German one, All Saints' Day, celebrated on November 1st, which is a Christian tradition whose main objective is to remember those people and relatives who consider themselves “saints”. It is common throughout the day that constant visits are made to German cemeteries to offer fresh flowers and ornaments next to the graves of deceased loved ones and relatives.
However, there are other customs that coexist with All Saints' Day, the most popular is Halloween, which I personally consider is the most widespread custom globally, this is done every October 31st. A celebration that had its origins in Europe and became popular in the United States.
The word “Halloween” is of Scottish origin. “All Hallow’s Eve” It is a festival carried out by the Celts, a warrior people who lived in the areas of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Back then, this day signified the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The rites that were performed had a sacred and purifying character. (Cordoba, P. 2018)
Another of the festivities that has begun to globalize, to become popular, is the “Day of the Dead” festivity of Mexican origin, declared by Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is a celebration that honors the ancestors. Its origin is found in the traditions of the Mayan, Aztec, Perepecha, Nahau and Totonac civilizations. (Unesco, 2016)
One of the most internationalized elements of this festival are the Catrina’s (painted people's faces), which we can find in any private party, disco, on the streets of Japan, Australia, Germany, but very few know their meaning and why the day of the dead is something so special for Mexicans.
For Mexicans currently, death does not refer to a loss or absence, but to a living presence. The deceased are honored with decorations and preparing their favorite foods, helping them to move on the right path after death. It is a celebration of memory, which allows us to remember and honor family and friends, but also an ancestral culture that is kept alive in each one of them. (Cordoba, P. 2018)
It is here on these important dates, in which many cultures celebrate death, loved ones, and others, where perfect scenarios are created for cultural appropriation, which is the use of typical cultural elements of an ethnic group by another, stripping itself of all its meaning and trivializing its use. (Jimenez, K 2019)
As is the case of the Catrina’s in all Halloween parties around the world or the same figure taken in the last edition of the Barbie doll, minimizing its meaning and the cultural connotation that it carries, however, there is another practice which takes precedence over this.
It is about the cultural appreciation to which it is related to exoticism, which is a cultural attitude of taste for the foreign, so it is not proper. (Jimenez, K 2019)
The line is very thin between these two terms and their application is difficult to identify, the truth is that both concepts do not move the passion for our culture and that of others and that although it is true there are misuses of cultural elements, also It is true that many uses are appreciative, and we cannot generalize before analyzing.
Think carefully what costume you will wear this October 31st and do not fall into globalized customs; unethical that only minimize cultures and their ancient knowledge.
Photos: Laura Beatriz Hoffman, Estefania Bompart