No Halloween in the islands

A difference in traditions between America and St. Vincent

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As we drove up the hill located on St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ capital city, Kingston, the dim glow of the candles on different graves created a beautiful scene in an eerie kind of way. On the hillside, we could see the silhouettes of the families surrounding the tombstones.

We treaded carefully upward because vision was not the best and we did not want to step on anyone’s grave. I was always taught that it was disrespectful do so and, honestly, I thought the person 6 feet under would haunt me.

As we walked through, I could see children playing, people fixing up plants on graves – in St. Vincent it is a common custom to beautify graves – and others chatting. For my family, All Souls’ Day is a time to meet up with the family members I don’t see often.

I am from the Caribbean country St. Vincent and the Grenadines (population 110,000) and we don’t celebrate Halloween.

My first Halloween took place during freshman year at UB.

Luckily, the iconic American holiday fell on a school day so I got see people in their costumes.

I did not know what to expect, because my ideas of Halloween were based off of television shows and movies. I felt the excitement building as campus was decorated and posters for various Halloween-themed events were hung on bulletin boards.

On that Halloween of my freshman year, I was pleasantly surprised as I randomly spotted a student in a Mario costume casually walking through the Student Union.

The rest of the day, I had fun trying to guess what each person was wearing – some costumes I recognized and others I didn’t. I enjoyed the creativity and freedom – it was a day when you could be anything you wanted to be, even a bowl of spaghetti.

I had my own taste of trick-or-treating during my English 201 class when my teacher gave my classmates and me candy.

Many Caribbean islands do not celebrate Halloween, rather, they celebrate All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2. For the Latin community, All Souls’ Day is called Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Although it is not as it is not as colorful as Halloween, it still has its own charm.

The people of my small island believe on the eve of All Soul’s Day, Nov. 1, the souls of the dead depart from their resting place and roam the island visiting their favorite places. Locals refer to this day as “Jumbie Leggo” – “jumbie” is a local term for ghosts and “leggo” refers to being free.

On Nov. 2, at around midnight, relatives visit the graves of their loved ones and place lighted candles to help guide the souls back to their resting places after a day of “walking about.”

When my family and I arrived at a relative’s grave, it was a mini family reunion. We added our candles to the grave and we spent time telling and listening to stories about our deceased relatives. Although people are in a cemetery, the atmosphere is quite festive – even sounds of laughter floated in the air.

This year, I will not be walking through the cemetery with my mother; I will attend my first haunted house, wear a costume and maybe even go to a party.

What is college for if not experiencing new things that otherwise you not have the opportunity to do?

email: kalinabr@buffalo.edu