How To Celebrate Day Of The Dead


Day of the dead is known around the world for being a tradition similar to (or sometimes even confused with) Halloween. It’s best known for the spooky yet colorful Day Of The Dead makeup and Day Of The Dead costumes that are synonymous with the festival. It’s a fascinating celebration that dates back centuries; a time-honored tradition that has endured through the ages. But asides from the typical candy skulls that are most often associated with this festival, what is Day Of The Dead? We take a look at the history of this festival and how it began, as well as who celebrates it, and how it is celebrated.


What is Day of the Dead?

Day Of The Dead or Día de Muertos is an annual festival in Central America that celebrates the deceased. The idea is to celebrate the lives of those who have passed into the spirit world, and many believe that on this day, the veil between worlds is thinner, meaning that your deceased loved ones can visit earth and sit among you. Día de Muertos has become famous throughout the world, but to truly understand and answer the question of “what is Day Of The Dead” we need to also look at the festival’s history, as well as where and how it is celebrated.


What is the difference between the day of the dead and Halloween?

What is the difference between day of the dead and Halloween?

Whilst the two celebrations certainly have very similar themes and in the modern day even occur around the same time of year, they originated in totally different countries. Halloween, as we know it today, was originally a Pagan festival known as Samhain which began in ancient Britain and took place around the last days of the Autumn harvest. 

Day Of The Dead is originally a Mexican holiday, which actually took place in the summer until the Spanish colonization. It is believed by various scholars and archaeologists that the Day Of The Dead celebrations originated from the ancient Aztec festival that honored the Goddess Mictecacihuatl — the Aztec Queen of the Underworld. Symbols of Día de Muertos, particularly the characteristic Day Of The Dead makeup and Day Of The Dead costumes have become synonymously popular as Halloween costumes throughout the world.


When is the day of the dead celebrated?

Many people ask the question “when is Day of The Dead is celebrated?” assuming it might be the same day as Halloween. In fact, Day Of The Dead traditionally lasts for several days, beginning on the 31st of October (the same day as Halloween) and ending on the 2nd of November (the day after All Saints Day).


Who celebrates Day of the Dead?

Who celebrates day of the dead?

When it comes to who celebrates Day Of The Dead, there are often some debates. Day Of The Dead is traditionally and predominantly celebrated in Mexico where the holiday originated, but also due in part to modern human migration, it is often celebrated throughout Central America and some parts of South America and The Caribbean as well. 

This includes countries such as Belize, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Haiti. While some of these countries specifically celebrate Día de Muertos in keeping with their Mexican heritage, other Latin countries have very similar festivals with slightly different names that are celebrated on the same days.


How to celebrate Day of the Dead

How to celebrate day of the dead

Día de Muertos is typically celebrated in a number of ways. Many families will build private altars (known as ofrendas) to pay homage to their loved ones. The altars usually include candles, incense, photographs of the deceased, perhaps some items that belonged to them, and sometimes religious icons such as a cross or image of Santa Maria. Altars are also often decorated with orange flowers (Marigolds are the traditional flower of choice); some may include skull decorations, and many leave food, drink, and cigars for their loved ones. Ofrendas can be made in the home or at the grave of the deceased. 

Another way that people celebrate Day Of The Dead is to visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried, where they will clean and decorate the graves. In some places, families may have a picnic in the graveyard or even stay in the graveyard all night in order to be closer to their loved ones' spirits. Traditional foods are usually prepared and eaten during Day Of The Dead, such as pan de muerto ("bread of the dead"), tamales, sweet cooked pumpkin, and candy skulls.


Perhaps the most famous aspect of Day Of The Dead is the Fiesta Día De Los Muertos. The fiesta is a grand parade, complete with colorful floats and elaborate Day Of The Dead makeup and Day Of The Dead costumes. Typically Day Of The Dead makeup usually involves painted faces to look like skulls, and the Day Of The Dead costumes are usually bright vibrant traditional garments. Sometimes women may wear wedding dresses with their faces painted to look like skulls, and men may wear smart suites. Women also often wear headdresses made of fresh flowers. However, there is no specific rule to what you can and cannot wear, and you are just as likely to see people following the parade dressed in jeans and t-shirts with just painted faces.


We hope you have enjoyed this insight into the Fiesta Día De Los Muertos and learned how to celebrate Day of the Dead properly! The Day Of The Dead festival is a wonderful time to visit countries in the region of Central America. Often, Mexico becomes overcrowded and booked up very quickly; many people forget that Día de Muertos is celebrated in other neighboring countries such as Belize as well as in Mexico. If you are interested in joining us for your very own Latin American Day Of The Dead experience, then contact a member of our friendly staff to book for next year!

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