We celebrated Day of the Dead in Mexico City, MX this year and we had a great time. The entire city participated. There were marches, parades and festivals everywhere, the vibe was outgoing and cool. We also watched Mexican children celebrating Halloween in the streets of Mexico City on November 1st. I found this the most interesting. Children dressed up in costumes from the traditional Dia de los Muertos costumes and would walk up to everyone on the street asking for candy… and people would have candy to give them! They were at stoplights with their moms and dads running up to cars collecting their candy. They were at all of the festivals asking for candy. They were everywhere…. My Spanish is a work in progress so originally I thought that they were elaborately dressed beggars (so sad, but so true). After I caught on (and got over feeling like shit) I went to a convenience store, stocked up on some of that good candy, and had a ball with the kids. The entire weekend was festive and fun. I highly recommend challenging your preconceived notions about cultures different from your own and enjoying what they have to offer. I found this mixture of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos interesting so I thought I would compare and contrast for y’all!
Day of the Dead or Dia le los Muertos is a Mexican national holiday, to remember and pray for family members and friends who are dead. It is celebrated from Oct. 31st – Nov. 2nd. Festivities include parades, family marches through neighborhoods, lighting fireworks, eating bread shaped as bones (pan de muertos – bread of the dead), setting up alters for the departed and praying for their souls. It is a huge ordeal in most of Mexico and it is a “Christian based” holiday (like Christmas is, you know, a “Christian based” holiday).
Halloween has it’s roots in Ireland but it is celebrated heavily in America. The contemporary version of Halloween has both children and adults celebrating. In contrast to Dia le los Murteros, it is not a nationally recognized holiday. Children dress up in costumes and go from house to house saying trick-or-treat (implying that they will cause mischief if they are not given treats) and are given candy for their labor. Adults attend costume parties. People traditionally dress up as something supernatural or ghoulish but pop-culture has changed morphed it into costumes of any theme. Typical activities include visiting haunted houses and bobbing for apples. Halloween is pagan-based at its roots and it commemorates a time when it was believed that souls that have died can visit the Earth.
Day of the Dead is commonly represented by a skull and #TheMost iconic symbol is La Catrina. La Catrina goes back to 1912. It was created as an artistic expression of social criticism and classism. Today, it is a strong representation of the relationship that Mexican people have with death – embracing and celebrating life while neutralizing their differences. People celebrating paint their faces in colorful makeup and dress up in elaborate outfits to embody her image. They also wear skull masks called calacas and give sugar skulls are as gifts during the celebrations.
Halloween symbols include carved pumpkins and horror movies and horror motifs.
I never understood why my brown brothers were so obsessed with skulls and candles (still in the dark a bit about the candles). It always felt taboo when I saw a candle on top of a skull or if I saw skulls on an alter. Can you relate? I feel like most religions have a checkered past with alters, false gods and all of that jazz. I was never comfortable with how I felt and finally decided learn a little something and grow a bit this year. I am glad that I did.