1. Día de Los Muertos is actually a two-day celebration
While Halloween is celebrated on October 31, in Mexico, Día de los Muertos spans over two days and celebrates two different meanings. In Mexican tradition, November 1st is a day to remember the children and infants who have died and is commonly known as Día de los Inocentes. November 2nd celebrates deceased adults and is the date we typically refer to as Dia de los Muertos. However, even though the holiday revolves around death, for Mexicans the holiday is meant to mourn family members through happiness and joy.
2. Día de los Muertos has indigenous and religious origins
The holiday is a blend of both Mexican indigenous traditions and Spanish influence. The origin stems from the month long Aztec festivals honoring the dead that were presided over by Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead. She was known as the keeper of the bones in the underworld. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived to Mexico, the festival was integrated in the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
3. We don’t celebrate at the cemetery because it’s the cool thing to do
Many Latinos celebrate Día de Los Muertos in a cemetery. However, we don’t host festivities there just because it’s a spooky thing to do. In fact, we don’t see the cemetery as scary at all. Part of our traditional celebration includes visiting the graves of our deceased loved ones to welcome their souls back for the day. The celebration includes some treats and even physical work — cleaning headstones, decorating the grave, and cooking our deceased loved their favorite foods!
4. There is a spiritual purpose behind our at-home decorations
For those Latinos who don’t live near the cemetery where their family members are laid to rest, creating an altar at home is the next best thing and an integral part of the holiday. Altars are typically decorated with flowers, food, pictures, and personal possessions of our deceased loved ones. These altars are not meant for decoration purposes like people tend to do for Halloween but meant to attract the souls of our loved ones for the day as we celebrate their life.
5. The infamous skull face is not meant to depict fear but instead mock death
This is evident even in the infamous skull that is depicted throughout much of the Día de Los Muertos décor and pictures known as the Calavera Catrina — a bright-colored dress and extravagant hat which many believe is a way to mock death. Interesting enough, the infamous Calavera Catrina was originally a satirical etching against the European upper class by artist by José Guadalupe Posada during the Mexican revolution.
Día de Los Muertos is a holiday deeply rooted in Latino culture and tradition. Above all, it is a way to keep our loved ones alive in our hearts even after they’ve gone.
Sasha Monik Moreno is a Founding Creator and career and education blogger. When she's not sharing her advice on Vivala.com, you can find her at themodernlatina.com.