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Day of the Dead Facts: Things you Should Know

LIFESTYLE | Published on 24/10/2022
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Mexico is a country brimming with rich history, unique traditions, and cultural festivities that people all over the world have learned to embrace. From Independence Day festivals to traditional spirits, people have come to love, and mimic, what makes Mexico and its people so special.

One element of Mexican culture that has caught the attention of the world is El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead festival. If you’ve heard of it before, then you know it is a beautiful tribute to those that have passed, but if you haven’t, here are a few Day of the Dead facts that will have you falling in love with this unique Mexican tradition.


When is the Day of the Dead in Mexico?

Day of the Dead traditions take place every year on November 1st and 2nd, which marks the dates that many Mexicans believe the spirit world opens up to allow the deceased to return to their families for a visit. During this time, it isn’t uncommon to see parades, a Day of the Dead festival, and a number of Day of the Dead altars that pop up around small towns, major tourist destinations, and everywhere in between throughout the country. 


Day of the Dead History

El Dia de los Muertos began long ago during the reign of the Aztec Empire. While the current day celebration is a blend of Mesoamerican rituals, Spanish culture, and European religion, it started as a month-long summer festival in honor of Mictecacihuatly, the Lady of the Dead. After Spanish colonization, the Aztec tradition was moved to directly after All Saints Day and modifications were made, which is why so many people get confused as to when is Day of the Dead in Mexico. Not to be confused with All Saints Day, Day of the Dead traditions are vastly different and offer up a lot of insight into the beauty of Mexican culture.


Day of the Dead is Nothing Like Halloween

Contrary to what many believe, this two-day celebration of life puts a different spin on remembering the deceased than that of Halloween. Day of the Dead traditions honor those that have passed as families across the nation welcome back their spirits rather than creating fear of the dead. 


Day of the Dead Altars


Altars dedicated to the deceased are set up all over the place, in cemeteries, living rooms, schools, and businesses. All Day of the Dead altars are unique in many ways, but they do share some similarities. Day of the Dead history dictates that they include four elements: fire, earth, wind, and water. These elements are represented with different components, such as candles for fire, a glass of water for the thirst quenched spirits, food and Day of the Dead flowers to represent Earth, and papel picado, orchiseled paper that moves with the wind.


Catrinas and other Well-Dressed Skeletons


One of the most interesting Day of the Dead facts revolves around the use of Catrina dolls. These elegant skeletons, which can be seen all over Day of the Dead celebrations, were once a political symbol of the class warfare that existed during the time of the Mexican revolution. Now embedded in Day of the Dead history, representations of Catrinas and skeletons can be seen parading around at night as countless people take to the streets dressed up as these famous symbols.


Different Regions, Different Traditions


Mexico is a vast country with different regions presenting their own unique take on the Day of the Dead festival. Some create Day of the Dead altars with up to seven levels, each representing a different stage of the journey between life and death, while others keep it to two levels and add in all the trimmings like Day of the Dead bread, a plate of salt, and bottles of tequila and packs of cigarettes. Regardless of how big the altars are, one thing is always for certain, the festivities are a celebration of life, not a mourning for the dead.


Day of the Dead Flowers


When you visit cemeteries or view Day of the Dead altars during the Mexican holiday, you’ll often see Marigolds strew about. A belief held by many is that the scent from the Day of the Dead flowers helps to attract spirits to their altar, allowing those on Earth to spend a few moments each year with loved ones who have passed on. 

Day of the Dead facts are filled with interesting tales and a rich history that makes Mexican culture so unique. If you find yourself visiting during the first few days of November, embrace the moment and take in the beauty of such a lovely tradition. You’ll find people all over who are will to share in the festivities, making it an experience you won’t soon forget.


Warm up your Day of the Dead festivities with a traditional Mexican hot chocolate. Watch the video for an easy-to-follow recipe.

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