What is the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)? 6 Interesting Facts

The Day of the Dead, also known as Día de los Muertos, is a two-day holiday celebrated primarily in Latin American nations. As the spooky season approaches, most people associate this Mexican celebration with Halloween. However, that assumption couldn’t be more wrong. 

This celebration is an entirely different thing on its own, and that is just one of many interesting facts about it. 

1. It is not a day of mourning, rather, it is a celebration 

Most people would think that since the Day of the Dead implies the death of loved ones, it is a day of sadness and mourning. However, it is the complete opposite. This holiday is a celebration wherein families gather to celebrate both life and death. 

People celebrate the joyous occasion while wearing traditional calavera Catrina and are accompanied by music, dancing, parties, and vibrant parades. This is a symbol of their celebrating the gift of life. 

Meanwhile, they make offerings in remembrance of those they have lost, and that is how they celebrate death. 

2. The Day of the Dead is an entirely different thing from Halloween

One can consider the thought of comparing Halloween, an Irish celebration, with the Day of the Dead as taboo. These are very different things due to the reason behind celebrating them. 

First off, both of these celebrations differ in dates. The Day of the Dead is a two-day holiday that happens on the 1st and 2nd of November. Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October and is only a one-day holiday. 

Next, the roots of both celebrations differ as well. The Day of the Dead stemmed from the Aztecs. Meanwhile, Halloween originated with the Celts. 

The activities differ for both of these holidays as well. Halloween is associated with dressing up in costumes and such, and the reason behind this is to ward off spirits—at least that was what the Celts believed. Nowadays, it is safe to say that Halloween has gradually let go of this belief and focused on wearing costumes for the purpose of trick or treating. 

On the other hand, to this day, the Day of the Dead consists of people celebrating it for the purpose of tradition. This celebration has not lost its meaning and stays true to honoring the dead and creating altars in remembrance of them. 

3. Ofrendas (altars) are essential during this celebration 

Ofrendas, or altars, are one of the core aspects that make up the Day of the Dead. Ofrendas are set up in homes and are adorned with marigold petals, food, calaveras, and items in honor of a deceased loved one, such as items in their possession from when they were alive, and, of course, pictures. 

4. The Day of the Dead is a mix of indigenous roots and religion brought about by the Spanish

Long before the modern day celebrations of the Day of the Dead, the Aztecs held rituals to honor the dead. In contrast to the 2-day modern celebrations held in Latin America, the Aztecs held a month-long celebration. 

Further, the Aztecs believed in several gods and goddesses, one being Mictlantecuhtli, the goddess of death and the underworld. The said goddess is the one who presides over the annual ritual of the Aztecs as they honor their deceased loved ones. 

Of course, the indigenous roots of the Day of the Dead did not last long. After some time, the Spaniards eventually colonized 

5. Wearing a costume during the Day of the Dead is not mandatory

People may get the wrong impression that whenever the Day of the Dead is being celebrated, one must wear a costume for it. The thing is, it is not required to wear one if one wishes to celebrate this holiday. That being said, the majority of people are seen wearing calavera Catrina costumes, given that it is the norm. 

6. It is considered offensive to wear a calavera Catrina on Halloween

Due to the popularity of Coco, there has been a rise in the number of people wearing a calavera Catrina costume and painting their faces to look like skulls for Halloween. 

Sadly, wearing something too dear to Mexican culture, like the calavera Catrina, would be an act of cultural appropriation. This is because they wear such costumes and paint their faces like skulls for a reason, which is to honor the dead. 


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