day of the dead facts

Day of the Dead Facts: The Complete Guide

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that is usually celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Would you look at that! Just one day after Halloween, we’re also treated to this awesome festival. Although it originated from Mexico, it is also celebrated by people from all around the world, especially those who have Mexican heritage. People should also be aware that the Day of the Dead festival should be celebrated joyfully.

During the holiday, people will gather around to honor the spirit and soul of the deceased. They accomplished it by building home altars that are called ofrendas and fill it with favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. Besides honoring the dead, you can also visit your friends and relatives too. It is very common to hand over some candy, sugar skulls and other food like the pan de muerto to a friend. It very much shares the spirit of Halloween, huh? But let’s discover some more cool facts about the Day of the Dead. Don’t go anywhere yet!

1. It Can Be Dated as Far Back to the Aztecs, and It’s Very Different to the Current Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead holiday can be traced as far back to the era of the Aztecs. Consequently, they are very rooted to the traditions of Aztecs and Mesoamericans. Like the modern days, they also used skulls to honor the dead. But since Christianity came to Mexico in the 16th century, the meaning of Dia de los Muertos began to change drastically. Currently, the Day of the Dead festival is the result of the merging of old traditions to honor the dead with Catholic practices.  

2. It is Similar… But It’s Nothing Like Halloween!

We have joked about how Dia de los Muertos seemed to be very similar to Halloween. They both have close dates and are often considered “spooky”. People who celebrate both holidays also hand out sweets and snacks to other people while wearing “scary” makeup. But when you study them closer, you’ll notice that they’re very different.

For starters, Halloween was originally a celebration to appreciate the afterlife and survival after death. It mainly revolves around darkness, death, ghosts, and witches. It also originated from Celtic tradition. On the other hand, people celebrate the Day of the Dead to honor the spirit of the deceased. The day of the Dead originated from Mexican traditions. Halloween used pumpkins and ghosts as symbols, while Dia de los Muertos used skulls. 

3. Previously, It’s Not Always on the Same Date

The awesome Day of the Dead holiday that we’ve come to know is widely celebrated during the 1st and 2nd of November, just after Halloween. But several hundred years ago, this was not the case. In fact, the Spanish officially changed the dates for the celebration when they invaded Mexico back in the 16th century. To coincide with the All Saints Day and All Souls Day, they officially placed the Day of the Dead celebration on the 1st and 2nd November. 

4. It’s Not (Only) the Celebration of Death

Just because the term of the holiday was called “Day of the Dead”, it doesn’t mean that we should only mourn and grieve for death. In fact, it is also the celebration of life. Although people normally know Dia de los Muertos as an occasion to honor the deceased, Mexicans will insist that people should not mourn for losses during the Day of the Dead. Instead, we should all celebrate it with joy and happiness to remember all the good memories of those who have left us.  

5. Two Days with Two Different Meanings

The Day of the Dead is celebrated during a two-day period. If a holiday is celebrated for more than one day, surely there’s a catch, right? The same thing can also be said for Dia de los Muertos. There are different meanings for the first and second day of the festival. Let’s take a closer look at the meanings for both days, shall we?

  • First day – Dia de los Angelitos: it’s also called day of the little angels. It is believed that the spirit of deceased children will be reunited with their families for this time period. Families will put snacks and other foods that their loved ones like and engrave their name on a sugar skull.
  • Second day – Dia de los Difuntos: also called day of the adults. Contrary to the first day, adults will have the chance to be reunited with their family from morning all the way to noon. from noon afterwards, the festival will switch over to the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos
  • Second day (noon): it’s the main party for Day of the Dead. People will gather and celebrate like crazy while wearing skeleton paint as makeup. They can also visit cemeteries and decorate their families’ graves. 

6. UNESCO has Recognized the Day of the Dead

UNESCO is a worldwide organization that runs with the mission to keep a list of heritage sites all across the world in order to preserve them. However, they also have the mission to make a list of worldwide cultural heritage. In 2008, the Day of the Dead was finally recognized as a part of Mexican’s culture and tradition. The UNESCO website also described Dia de los Muertos as a union of two universes.  

7. Ofrenda is an Important Aspect in the Celebration, But They Are Not Used for Worshipping

Every family who celebrates the Day of the Dead knows that ofrenda is one of, if not the most, important aspect in the celebration. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, an ofrenda is an altar that was built inside the home. However, it is important to note that ofrendas are not used for worshiping. In fact, most Mexicans are Christians and Catholics. That is proof enough that they used it for other purposes than worshiping the souls of the dead. 

So what is it used for, you may ask? An ofrenda will serve as a medium for the deceased to come back. During the celebration, every family will light up candles below a crucifix and images of Saints. Each candle will represent one soul, so the amount of candles lit will be dependent on each families’ discretion. 

8. This is the Largest Known Ofrenda

People made altars, or ofrenda in various shapes and sizes to fit their purposes. If you happen to honor a lot of people during the celebration, it’s only natural that you make a large ofrenda in your house. However, you might still not be able to make one that is as big as the awesome altar made by Gobierno del Estado de Hidalgo. It was built in 2019 in Plaza Juarez and measured 1,044.30 m2. If you take a closer look at the altar, you will see portraits of his ancestors, salts, 600 candy skulls, 1000 candles, and many more decorations!

9. Although People Serve Different Foods for the Deceased, They Should Always Remember to Cook Pan De Muerto

This is the one thing that all Mexicans can’t wait for during the Day of the Dead. For the whole year, they’re waiting for the time to feast on this delicious meal. It also symbolizes the rage in all of Mexico during the period. It is really essential to the celebration, because the bread represents both life and death. People will eat this lovely meal with their family, but they also remember to offer some to the soul of the deceased. 

10. Before Spectre, the Day of the Dead Parade is Not Common, At All!

When we watch James Bond movies, we’re guaranteed to watch something brilliant and magnificent. The same can be said to Spectre, one of Daniel Craig’s best movies. But forget all the awesome stunts and action in the movie, because one thing really stood out in the movie: the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. 

Inspired by the movie, the officials in Mexico City finally decided to hold a parade in honor of the holiday. It is said that this is the first time for Mexico City to hold a parade for the Day of the Dead. The tradition of making parades in honor of the celebration generates mixed reception. Some agreed to the concept and thought that it would be good as a way to pass the tradition to the next generation, while some disagreed and argued that it would diminish the true meaning of the holiday.

11. Want to Know More about Day of the Dead? Watch Coco!

In 2017, a movie from Disney Pixar has just recently come out, and it shook the world with its brilliance. Not only does Coco perfectly captured the Day of the Dead tradition, they also wrap it in a magical and wonderful way! 

We have seen far too many times, movies that were based on a tradition or something else to be far inaccurate to the source. However, Coco can be proud of their achievement for depicting the festival accurately, as well as crafting it with genuine appreciation towards Mexican culture. 

12. DC Comics Teamed Up with Funko Pop to Release Special Dia de los Muertos Figures

DC Heroes and Villains Dia de los Muertos and Funkoween (Source: comicbook.com)

Who doesn’t love DC Comics and the lineup of heroes and villains that it possesses? And to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Funko released a collaboration with some of DC Comics best characters, like Batman, Bane, and Green Lantern. They all come in unique makeup to resemble the Day of the Dead festival. Previously, Funko also released a collaboration with “Nightmare Before Christmas” to celebrate Day of the Dead.  

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