Ok, it’s true…. in Mexico we love a good fiesta! Any given week there’s a national or religious festivity going on: Independence Day, Revolution day, Virgen Guadalupe Day, etc. And everybody gets involved: young and old!
Day of the Dead (in Spanish: “Noche de Muertos”) or All Saints is another important date on the celebration calendar. It’s celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. The Dancing Chefs at Salsa and Salsa set up their altars at home too. But year by year another spooky party is creeping into Mexico: Halloween! Seemingly celebrating the same theme: “Death”, each festivity has their own peculiar details.
Day of the Dead:
- This celebration has prehispanic roots, where death doesn’t represent the end of a life but a continuation of life in a parallel world. The day when the dead could return was a month after the autumn equinox. Afer the Spanish invasion the date was made to coincide with All Saints.
- It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.
- Unlike Halloween, you don’t ask anything but rather give offerings. By setting up altars you pay tribute to those who passed away and invite them back to visit the land of the living for one night.
- You place candles and marigold flowers to guide the way for the souls to find their way home.
- The altars are set up inside people’s houses for family, close friends or relatives who passed away.
- The altars are decorated with many colors. Usually people place the favorite food and drinks of the departed on the altar as well as a photo.
- You don’t get dressed up for Day of the Dead, but it is common to see the representation of death as a lady (“La Catrina”)
- Typical candies are sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, which is a sweet bread with ‘bones’ of bread on top.
- The name of this festivity comes from “All Hallows Eve”.
- Halloween dates back to the celtic celebration of “Samhain”. The Celts believed that on October 31st the lines between this world and other worlds could be crossed easily, allowing spirits to enter into the land of the living.
- To scare the spirits entering our world, people get dressed up in terrifying outfits.
- In Halloween the spirits arriving from other worlds are evil and provoke fear, unlike Day of the Dead where the souls come back to celebrate with their families.
- Children ask for “Trick or Treat”, impersonating the evil spirits who come and scare us. The only way to calm them is by handing out candies.
- Houses are decorated with spooky decorations. The scarier the house, the less likely any evil spirits will come close.
- Bonfires are lit to scare off the dead and send them back to the other worlds.
- Typical colors used are black, orange and purple.
- Carving out pumpkins or “Jack o’Lanterns” is to celebrate harvest season coming to an end.
Now that you know more about the differences between Day of the Dead and Halloween, you can choose to celebrate one or both. Don’t be scared off by the skulls and skeletons walking around in Mexico. Our ancestors are fun, friendly and ready to have a wonderful fiesta!