The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere.
You don’t need to be Mexican or Brazilian to celebrate The Day Of The Dead. Nor must you ‘believe’ or, be religious. Connection and remembrance transcend these.
Many of my friends, a few clients, and I have done the following ritual (and more formal rituals) to commemorate our dearly departed. Each time we do, we feel a weight lift from our minds, subtle or significant.
Halloween, November 1 is “el Dia de los innocents,” or the day of the children, and All Saints Day. November 2 is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.
Origins of Day of the Dead
The roots of the Day of the Dead, celebrated in contemporary Mexico and among those of Mexican heritage in the United States and around the world, go back some 3,000 years, to the rituals honoring the dead in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Aztecs and other Nahua people living in what is now central Mexico held a cyclical view of the universe, and saw death as an integral, ever-present part of life.
Day of the Dead and Halloween
Día de los Muertos and Halloween have some common features, but they are distinct holidays. They both come from early cultures’ beliefs about death that later mixed with Christianity. They are both based on the idea that the spirits return at that time of year. Customs around Halloween seem to stem from the idea that the spirits were malevolent (children were disguised so that they wouldn’t be harmed), whereas in Day of the Dead festivities, the spirits are joyfully welcomed as family members that one hasn’t seen in a year.
Visiting Mexico For Día de Muertos
This holiday is an excellent time to visit Mexico. Not only will you be able to witness these special celebrations, but you can also enjoy other advantages of Mexico in the Fall Season. Although families celebrate this holiday privately, there are many public displays that you can enjoy, and if you act respectfully, no one will mind your presence in the cemeteries and other public spaces where Mexicans celebrate and honor their deceased.
Day of the Dead Quotes
- “God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled.” – From an unknown writer
- “Oh, may I join the choir invisible of those immortal dead who live again.” – George Eliot
- “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell
- “The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” – Seneca
- “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” – William Penn
- “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.” – Lois McMaster Bujold
- “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity.” – Edvard Munch
- “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” – George Eliot
- “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero