Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

This is Halloween.

Bruna Távila, right, from the bakery Sweet Bites, celebrated Halloween on Saturday at House of Blues in Boston with a friend. — Courtesy Juliana Germani

A tradução deste artigo se encontra no final da versão em inglês

Halloween is not celebrated in Brazil, for no other reason other than it’s not part of our culture. Right now, it’s starting to warm up in Brazil, and soon, as we brace ourselves for our winter, Brazilians will be gearing up for their end of the school year and summertime. So some of the elements of what Halloween represents make no sense to Brazilians — especially the changing of seasons, which adds an element of frightfulness and horror.

Brazilians watch horror movies, host costume parties, especially at nightclubs in big cities such as São Paulo, but we don’t give much thought to it, regardless of where we stand religiously. However, when I moved to the Island, it quickly became clear that the celebration of Halloween was a sensitive issue for Brazilians on the Island, and I have always been curious as to why.

Last year, on my first year as a high school teacher, the majority of my students didn’t go to school; I tease some of them that they use this as an excuse not to go to school, but some choose not to participate based on their religious beliefs. In some of my classes, all seats were empty. Today, Monday afternoon, I already received emails from students alerting me that they won’t be coming to school tomorrow and asking how they can make up missed assignments. I have also heard through the grapevine that no kids are allowed to dress up in Halloween costumes because of how Brazilian parents feel about the date — not all Brazilian parents, but parents from the evangelical Brazilian community. I reached out to various folks to try to understand what the date means to them, and here are some of their answers:

Elizabeth Nunes, pastor at the Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven, mother of four children in various schools on the Island and at Lesley University.

I have lived on the Island for over 20 years, and have been a mother for 18. I wouldn’t say that the Brazilian community doesn’t celebrate Halloween — the Brazilian evangelical community doesn’t celebrate Halloween. For us evangelicals, we believe that Halloween is based on witchcraft, Satanism, none of the things which we believe or want our kids to celebrate.

I don’t send my children to school on Halloween because I don’t want them to partake in what we believe is being observed, but I don’t think that the schools should ban other children whose parents celebrate the holiday to wear their costumes. It is part of the American culture, and as immigrants, we adapt.

We don’t need to agree or participate, but our beliefs shouldn’t get in the way of how other people choose to live their lives. Halloween to us is the equivalent of Carnaval; the true evangelical doesn’t participate in any form of the Carnaval celebration. We don’t agree with the meaning or even purpose of it, but people everywhere in Brazil celebrate while we go on with how we regularly live our lives.

Leda Ribeiro, married to José Carlos Ribeiro, who is the local pastor of the Brazilian church Igreja Cresce in Vineyard Haven.

Halloween is the day of the dead, and we evangelicals don’t celebrate this date. It might seem silly to some people, but the Bible says that we must not eat anything based on the sacrifice of an idol. When my children were younger, I didn’t send them to school; that was just a personal preference. Now that they are older — one is in college, and the other is in high school — I can’t control what they choose to do. But they were raised to be evangelicals, and we didn’t instill in them this aspect of the American culture, but that is based on what we chose to do for our family based on what we think is right. But as the Bible also says, just because something doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.

Luciana Sever, Luciana Clemente, and Simone Krasa dressed up in costumes and celebrated Halloween at the Loft on Saturday night

Father Edivar Ribeiro, Brazilian Catholic community.

The Brazilian Catholic communities do not celebrate Halloween; although it originated from the Catholic tradition, nowadays, the context is devoid of the original Christian liturgical meaning. There is no formal prohibition on the part of the Catholic Church, but it is advisable to avoid this type of celebration involving witches and demons.