The Day of the Dead, also known as Dia De Los Muertos or Dia De Muertos, is a Christian holiday observed internationally but believed to have originated in Mexico.
The festival is a time to reflect, pray and remember family and friends who have died. In many ways, this festival is also considered to be a festival sparking joy at the celebration of life.
But when is the Day of the Dead, and how is it celebrated?
When is Day of the Dead?
Day of the Dead is a holiday with origins in Mexico, spanning from 31 October to 2 November, and is associated with Western Christianity’s season, Allhallowtide, a time dedicated to remember the dead.
It is traditionally celebrated on 1 or 2 November, but dates of celebration could reach until 6 November, depending on the locality.
It is thought Day of the Dead originated thousands of years ago with Nahua, Aztec and Toltec people who believed mourning the dead to be disrespectful.
So over this period, families come together to celebrate and honour their lost ones in a joyful manner.
How do people celebrate?
Traditionally, this festival is connected to calaveras (sugar skulls) and Aztec marigold flowers.
People honour the deceased through building ofrendas (home altars) with the favourite food of those they are honouring and visit the graves of those departed to leave items and gifts.
Since this is also a celebration of life, people often gift friends and families with sugar skulls to commemorate their relationships.
Families and friends also bake and share traditional food, such as Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead) in the weeks leading up to the festival.
During the three days, from 31 October to 2 November, families clean graves and decorate them with Mexican marigolds.
These flowers are thought to attract the souls of the dead to their offerings, as some people believe the bright petals and strong perfume guide their loved one’s souls to their graves.
In towns across Mexico, people wear makeup, sometimes to resemble skulls and adorn themselves in colours and bright flowers to parade through the town.
Many households hold parties, to sing and dance whilst making their offerings to the dead.
Is Day of the Dead the same as Halloween or All Souls’ Day?
It’s important to note that Day of the Dead is not a Mexican version of Halloween but a holiday to remember those they have lost with happiness.
Although both Day of the Dead and All Souls’ Day are associated with Christianity, All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer to remember deceased loved ones on 2 November.
It is also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and is often associated with Day of the Dead.
People who observe this day are usually Roman Catholic but it is sometimes observed by people in other Christian denominations.
Where Day of The Dead is a festival teeming with colours and comedy, All Souls’ Day is more sombre and is usually associated with dark colours, like purple and black.
Both days are traditions to remembering the dead and observing prayers, and both have feasts in remembrance of those who are deceased.