Day of the Dead is often referred to as ‘the Mexican Halloween’, mainly due to it falling at a similar time of year to our festival. However in reality, the two are very different, not surprising given they were born from two completely different cultures!
On 1st and 2nd November in Latin America, families and friends gather to remember and pray for the souls of the dead. This tradition is believed to derive from an Aztec ritual dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, Queen of the Underworld.
Despite these sombre beginnings, the festival has a strong atmosphere of celebration with many parties taking place across the period. Ritual tasks of the festival are also treated in a more light-hearted fashion than in the UK or US:, alt graves are cleaned and adorned with massive flower sculptures, witty ‘epitaph’ poems are written to commemorate a particularly endearing trait of a loved one and toys are left at the graves of children. The adults receive a bottle of tequila or similar.
The skull is the dominant icon of the holiday and can be found in many forms, from the traditional ‘Catrina’ statue, representing a female skeleton in upper-class clothing, to tasty treats such as chocolate and sugar representations for the table. Another traditional dish at this time of year is the pan de muerto, a sweet bread often decorated with white icing to look like twisted bones.
So if you are looking for a couple of alternative aspects for your Halloween party, you may like to consider trying some of the customs of el Día de los Muertos.