Halloween vs Day of Dead. A Celebration of Life.

Happy Halloween! How are you planning to enjoy this holiday? People around the world celebrate it, but if you are in America,  it is going to be a big day.

Children dress up and go ‘trick-or-treat’ door-to-door. Some families decorate their homes and gardens in Halloween style, and many adults dress up to go out with their children, attend costume parties or may watch horror films.

Whereas Halloween, October 31,  is a dark night of spookiness and mischief. Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), November 2, is a celebration of life and death. And although related, the two annual events differ vastly in traditions and nature.

The theme of both is death, but in Mexico, we remember and honour our deceased loved ones.  It is a way of demonstrating love and respect for deceased family members.

It is a colourful festivity where Mexicans celebrate the lives of those who have passed on.  Families and friends visit cemeteries, take skull shaped bread, candles, incense, decorate the grave, put a photo of the dead person, contract Mariachis to play their deceased favourite songs and spend the night gathered around the grave singing and dancing during the night.

The ceremonies, offerings, and customs vary by region and towns. But the general tradition of the Day of the Dead in Mexico involves making an altar or offering (ofrendas)  built in private homes and cemeteries. They are not for worship; rather they are to welcome the spirits who will return on this occasion.

These offerings could include, flowers, fruit, food, bread, water or any drink to quench the thirst after the long journey, family photos, candles and photos of each dead relative. If one of the spirits is a child, small toys might be on the altar.

Catrina SkeletonIn towns and cities throughout Mexico, plenty of colourful Calaveras (skulls) and Calacas (Skeletons) are displayed all over the country. Calavera means “skull.”

Catrina” was an elegant and well-dressed woman who symbolises the Day of the Dead and the willingness to laugh at death itself.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Calavera described short, humorous poems,  often sarcastic tombstone epitaphs published in newspapers that poked fun at the living. These Calaveras eventually became a popular part of Día de Muertos celebrations. These days, the practice is alive and well. You’ll find these clever, biting poems in print, read aloud, and broadcast on television and radio programs.


Day of the Dead originated back to indigenous cultures with the Aztec, Toltec and other civilisations dating back 2,500 or 3,000 years. They considered mourning the dead disrespectful. Death was a natural phase in life’s long eternity.

The dead were still members of the community and kept alive in memory and spirit, and during the Day of the Dead, they would temporarily return to earth. The festival initially occurred in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and lasted for the entire month. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.


Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain celebrated on October 31. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to open the door so that the souls of the dead could return to this world.

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 to honour All Saints Day incorporating some of the traditions of Samhain.

It’s in America that Halloween re-establish

During the 19th century, the Irish immigrants to the United States increase the popularity of Halloween.

It became more and more popular during the 20th century with traditions like carved pumpkin and trick or treating.

Halloween is growing in Australia. My grandchildren love to dress up and go to the neighbour’s for a trick and treat, but it is nothing compared to the America atmosphere.

In Mexico, however, it is a big occasion as we never miss a chance to celebrate whatever opportunity presents to us.

What about yourself? How do you celebrate this holiday? I’d love to hear your thoughts or ideas about this tradition.

With much appreciation


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