The Day of The Dead is probably one of the most misunderstood holidays. Some people assume that because is so close to Halloween, that is somehow “Mexican Halloween”. Some people just think is a carnival where people paint sugar skulls on their faces and dress up. But the reality is that is actually a tradition that goes back thousands of years ago and it has nothing to do with Halloween.
We, at Clapper, wanted to give a quick history lesson on the day of the dead and its importance. After all, many people from the Latino communities in the US celebrate it, and some countries have also adopted their own “Day of the Dead” holiday. But to talk about what this 2-day-holiday is, we have to look back at its history.
What is Day of The Dead?
The Day of the Dead is a holiday where people honor loved ones who have passed away. It’s not about morning, but actually celebrating the lives of deceased family and friends. On this day, Mexican people go to their loved ones’ graves and decorate them with flowers and colorful decorations to remember them. Its also believed that during this holiday there is a pathway between the spiritual and real world, so the dead can visit their loved ones from the afterlife. It’s a two-day celebration. November 1st is all about remembering children who have died, and Nov. 2nd is when the adults are celebrated.
The Origins Of Tradition🪶
Day of the Dead is approximately a 2000-year-old tradition, originated with the Aztecs. The Aztecs had different views about death and the afterlife. They believed that once you died, your soul would go on to be part of the spirit world until eternity. In fact, they didn’t see it as the end, but as a transformation from the body to the soul. They would have feasts around the time of July, celebrating the gods of death Mictlantecuhtli and his wife Mictecacíhuatl, queen of the underworld. So, what happens when the Spanish took over the Aztecs and their celebrations? A new breed of tradition was born.
A Mash-up of Culture🇪🇸🇲🇽
The Spaniards took the Aztec traditions, like the offerings of food to the dead, and turned it into a catholic celebration: All Saints Day. The Spanish took the Aztec’s celebration of death and turned it into the celebration of Saints. However, they kept a lot of aspects from the Aztec traditions. Day of The Dead became a catholic holiday, even when it originated from indigenous people. This holiday went on to transform into a Mexican national holiday.
The Ofrenda (offerings or altars) is a beautiful ritual people do on the Day of The Dead to honor the ones they’ve lost. It involves building a little altar that includes: a picture of their loved one, flowers, candles, and usually their favorite food when they were alive. You can also add their old belongings or items that remind you of them.
Skull painting was a tradition passed on by the Aztecs. They used to wear skulls when they honored the dead, and today, people draw them on their faces to honor the original traditions that came from the indigenous people. It’s not supposed to be scary in any way, but celebratory, joyful, and filled with vibrant colors.
Spread Around The World 🌎
Even when the holiday originated from Mexico, many Latin American countries celebrate the Day of The Dead in their own way. Some of these countries are “Columbia, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela” and even non-Latino countries like the Philippines celebrate it as well.
The most important thing to consider when celebrating The Day Of The Dead is to understand its meaning and have respect for its historic value. When it comes to other cultures and their celebration is always good to do a little research. Sometimes we look past history because of shiny bright colors and big celebrations when there is an important history and message to acknowledge. Enjoy this holiday and if you usually celebrate it, remember to use our hashtag #rememberthedead when your make content honoring your loved ones’ passing.