Many think Day of the Dead is a “Mexicanized” Halloween.
And well… It could not be further from the truth. For starters, Day of the Dead is MUCH older. The reality is that there is much misinformation about these two celebrations in relation to death. Mostly, the idea of both is completely different.
So, I’ve done a little research to clarify some doubts and end once and for all with this madness!
Let’s check out the differences between these fun and historical celebrations.
DAY OF THE DEAD
It has pre-Hispanic origins that were accentuated with the arrival of the Spaniards to Mexico. In an attempt to convert the natives to Catholicism, they moved the celebration to the beginning of November to coincide with the Catholic festivities of the Day of all Saints and All Souls.
It is celebrated on November 1st (dedicated to the deceased children) and November 2nd (dedicated to adults).
Unlike Halloween, it is not asking for anything. It is an offering. Through heavily decorated altars, tribute is offered to the deceased to celebrate the visit of their soul to the world of the living. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say they visit, you might want to head to the basic explanation).
- Candles and flowers are placed all over the floor, starting from the door of the house, and up to the altar. This is done to guide and attract the souls on their way back to this world.
- Spirits return in a familiar way to enjoy the offerings that are made. They celebrate with close relatives, acquaintances or loved ones. It is a party – for the people that are no longer with us.
- All kinds of colors are used to decorate houses and offerings, including paper, food, and drinks. Regularly, the altars are filled with pictures and the things the deceased liked.
In my grandma’s case, those things are tequila!
Its representative flower is the Cempasúchitl (You might know it by another name- Marigold). This flower seeks, by its intense yellow color as well as its aroma, to attract and guide the dead to their homes.
Mexicans do not wear masks or make it a scary day. At the most, they dress as Catrinas /skulls, to represent the afterworld.
The sugar or chocolate skulls are also typical, these are used to represent our deceased, so we use colored papers where we write the names of our deceased.
Traditional Bread of the Dead is made, decorated with forms of “bones” made of the same bread. It’s DELICIOUS and incredibly soft and sweet. Perfect to dip in a hot chocolate mug.
It is derived from the English expression “All Hallows Eve” (eve of all saints).
It originated from the Celtic celebration of Samhain. The Celts believed that the line separating the earthly world from the “other world” became narrower on these dates, allowing spirits to traverse theworld of the living.
It is celebrated every year on October 31st. This has been the same since their arrival in the United States in 1840.
People transform themselves wearing masks and terrifying costumes to drive away the spirits. By looking awful and unpleasant, people avoid being harmed by evil. that return on those dates, by adopting an unpleasant appearance people avoid being harmed.
These spirits return in an evil form causing fear, unlike the “Day of the Dead”, where the spirits are awaited upon with open arms. Because of the root of the celebration, it is believed these spirits are coming back to Earth to haunt the living.
Children (primarily) ask for sweets by chanting “Trick or Treat”, this is a representation of the evil beings that return. To appease them, they are offered sweets (in the antiquity, it was food).
So people who offer money or fruit are not really doing their job.
- Houses are decorated. The more gory, frightening, terrifying they are, the better they drive away the evil spirits.
- People set bonfires and light candles to remind spirits that fire must keep them away from the living.
- The colors used to represent the date are black, purple and orange. Yet, since the celebration is held at night, it also gives room to many colorful costumes.
- A well-known tradition is decorating pumpkins known as Jack o’Lantern. Also of Irish origin, they are a very common harvest of the season.
Although the proximity of the dates in which each festival is celebrated is very close, experts in the subject agree that both revolve around the proximity of winter and the end of the harvest season. So in all honesty, none is a copy of the other.
Because of their origins, Halloween and Day of the Dead are simply different perspectives related to the return of the spirits to the earthly plane.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong in celebrating both! You can definitely find that both of them are magical, traditional, and extremely fun to be a part of!