BARRIO – Dia De Los Muertos is a two day holiday that reunites the living and dead. Families create ofrendas (Offerings) to honour their departed family members that have passed. These altars are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favourite foods and drinks of the one being honoured. The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departed souls hear their prayers, smell their foods and join in the celebrations!
Day of the Dead is a rare holiday for celebrating death and life. It is unlike any holiday where mourning is exchanged for celebration.
Day of the Dead is not the “Mexican Halloween” like it is sometimes mistaken to be because of the timing of the year. The two holidays originated with similar afterlife beliefs but are very different in modern day. Halloween began as a Celtic Festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts but has recently turned into a tradition of costume wearing and trick-or-treating. Decorating your house with spiders and bats and wearing scary costumes is not done in most parts of Mexico.
Many of us see death as a sad event but those who celebrate Day of the Dead view death as a welcomed part of life. That is why you will see brightly coloured skeletons and skulls everywhere during the holiday. They often are seen smiling, as a friendly nod to death, even mocking death.
Believe it or not, Mexicans are not the only ones to celebrate Day of the Dead. It is a widely celebrated holiday all over the world. In fact, many religious communities celebrate All Souls Day (also known as All Saints Day) during the same time as Day of the Dead. The act of honouring the dead is widely celebrated around the world but Day of the Dead is unique in its traditions: the ofrenda, the meaning of life and death, the use of calaveras, the style influenced by La Catrina, and more recently, the festivals in the streets.