Day of the Dead and Halloween – fun and facts

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:

  1. altar de muertosThis 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.
  2. It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.
  3. 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.
  4. la catrinaYou place candles and marigold flowers to guide the way for the souls to find their way home.
  5. The altars are set up inside people’s houses for family, close friends or relatives who passed away.
  6. 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.
  7. 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”)
  8. Typical candies are sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, which is a sweet bread with ‘bones’ of bread on top.





  1. Trick or treaters on the porchThe  name of this festivity comes from “All Hallows Eve”.
  2. 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.
  3. To scare the spirits entering our world, people get dressed up in terrifying outfits.
  4. 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.
  5. spooky decorationsChildren 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.
  6. Houses are decorated with spooky decorations. The scarier the house, the less likely any evil spirits will come close.
  7. Bonfires are lit to scare off the dead and send them back to the other worlds.
  8. Typical colors used are black, orange and purple.
  9. 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!



Shout out for Mexican Independence Day

viva mexicoIn Mexico we love to cheer: Olé….. Salud…… Ándale….. Ay ay ay! In September there’s another great occasion to cheer: Mexico’s Independence day. Now don’t get confused with Cinco de Mayo, which is sometimes mistaken for independence day. The Dancing Chefs love to cheer: Viva Mexico! Independence Day is celebrated every September 16th with parades, festivals, feasts, parties and more. Mexican flags are everywhere and the main plaza in Mexico City is packed. But what’s the history behind the date of September 16?

Back in 1810 the Spanish were the official rulers of Mexico, but many Mexicans weren’t happy with how they governed. On September 16th 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo rang the church bells of Dolores and made a speech, now known as ‘Cry of Dolores’ or ‘Grito de Dolores’. He made a shocking announcement: he was taking up arms against the tyrannies of the Spanish government and his parishioners were all invited to join him. Within hours Hidalgo had an army: a large, unruly, poorly armed but resolute mob.

independence day dishesEvery year, local mayors and politicians re-enact the famous Grito de Dolores. In Mexico City, thousands congregate in the Zócalo, or main square, on the night of the 15th to hear the President ring the same bell that Hidalgo did and recite the Grito de Dolores. The crowd roars, cheers and chants, and fireworks light up the sky. On the 16th, every city and town all over Mexico celebrates with parades, dances and other civic festivals.

Most Mexicans celebrate by hanging flags all over their home and spending time with family. A feast is usually involved. If the food can be made red, white and green (like the Mexican Flag) all the better! Favorite dishes include Chiles en Nogada, Tostadas or Pozole. Pozole is a delicious soup filled with hominy corn and pork meat and garnished with lettuce, onion, herbs and tostadas. For all you chefs, who want to celebrate Mexican Independence Day in style and make Pozole at home: here is the recipe!!!



The stock:

4 litres of water

1 kilo pork meat

1/2 kilo pork ribs

3 cans hominy corn (450gr. each)

1 onion, quartered

8 cloves of garlic

Salt to taste


The Sauce:

5 dried Chili Anchos, cleaned without seeds

5 dried Chili Guajillo, cleaned without seeds

6 cloves of garlic

1 onion, diced

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp oregano

Salt to taste


garnishes-for-pozoleThe Garnish:

1 Romaine lettuce, washed and shredded

1 1/2 cup onion, diced

1 1/2 cup radishes, washed and sliced

Chile Piquin, to season

Oregano, to season

Tostadas, 2-3 per person

Limes, cut in halves



  1. Heat 4 litres of water in a big pan. Add the quartered onion, garlic, salt, pork meat and ribs. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat has been cooked. You can remove any foam that is formed on the soup. If neccesary you can add more water.
  2. Take the meat out of the stock. Remove excess grease, bones of the ribs, onion and garlic.
  3. Now to prepare the sauce, soak the chili ancho and guajillo in enough hot water to cover the chilis. Leave for 25 minutes.
  4. Once the chilis are softened, drain and place into a blender with the raw garlic, diced onion and oregano. Add a little bit of water too. Blend until you obtain a smooth consistency.
  5. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high fire. Add the chili mixture to the skillet and season to taste, continuously stirring. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for about 25 minutes.
  6. Pass the chili sauce through a strainer into the stock. Bring to a boil and add the meat, simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the hominy corn, season with salt and pepper if needed. Heat through until the soup is completely hot.
  7. Serve the Pozole in a big soup bowl and place the garnish in the center of the table, so everybody can serve themselves.


Buen Provecho and Viva Mexico!!!


Dancing Chef Maaike

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