Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is one of my favorite holidays, right up there with Dia de los Locos (Day of the Crazies) and Thanksgiving. I couldn’t be in a better place for it either. Mexico places great importance on Dia de Los Muertos. Starting with an immense reverence for family, it makes sense that this holiday is celebrated with exuberance.
Many people outside of Mexico don’t understand Dia de los Muertos and view it as morbid or confuse it with Halloween. Though the dates are close and both holidays are tied to Catholocism, they are actually quite different. For Halloween, we try to dress up as something scary to frighten away lurking spirits or even death itself. Death is to be feared and avoided. Not so in the Mexican tradition which falls on November 1 and 2 (All Saints Day and All Souls Day.) Rather, life is celebrated – the memory of a loved one or honoring family lineage and ancestors.
For Dia de los Muertos, there is no fear of the dead. They are honored guests, welcome in the space of the living. They are offered their favorite snacks and drinks, like Pan Muerto and tequila. They’re surrounded by vibrant marigolds and deep purple coxcomb. It is a happy shared space where both the living and the dead are comfortable.
The symbol for the Day of the Dead is the Catrina, a woman dressed in fine clothing with a skeleton face. She represents the materialism you can’t take with you when you die. Many people dress as Catrinas (or Catrins if they’re men) and parade through town or go to social events. There is an array of parties and in every interaction people confront the idea of their own death with warmth and playfulness.