Why learn about Day of the Dead?

Marigolds are sold in the markets for Dia de los Muertos (Photo Credit: Pernel S. Thyseldew www.digthatcrazyfarout.com)

Day of the Dead promotes cultural awareness of Mexican folk art practices associated with the celebration. This community and family tradition celebrates family, life, and community. Specific practices for celebrating Day of the Dead vary from community to community. However there are some common practices central to the celebration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Calavera Catrina, plaster, paint and glitter (Courtesy of Corazon)

What is Day of the Dead?

Every year, according to Mexican folk tradition, the living honor the return of the souls of dead family and friends on November 1 and November 2. The first of November is reserved for the return of departed children and the second for adults. The living celebrate the

Is Day of the Dead like Halloween?

No, Day of the Dead is not a scary or gruesome event. Witches, monsters, goblins, and demons are ONLY associated with Halloween. In contrast, Day of the Dead honors and celebrates the deceased. “It is a uniquely Indo-Hispanic custom that demonstrates a strong sense of love and respect for one’s ancestors; celebrates the continuance of life, family relationships, community solidarity; and even finds humor after death—all positive concepts!” (Salinas, Bobbi. Indo-Hispanic Folk Art Traditions II. Michigan : Piñata Publications, 1988)

Does Day of the Dead honor death?

No, Day of the Dead does not honor death, but the memory and the souls of the dearly departed.

Are retablos traditionally associated with Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead altars can contain a variety of items, such as marigolds, food, beverages, candles, photographs, and keepsakes. Although altars normally hold specific items, the composition of the altar is usually determined today by its caretakers. Images of saints can be included within this composition. Retablos are not specifically created for Day of the Dead altars.

What is the relationship between All Soul’s /All Saint’s Day and Mexico’s Day of the Dead?

Both set aside a day for remembering loved ones who have passed away. The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration differs from the European tradition of All Soulsy/All Saints Day because it is a complex mix of pre-Hispanic and Hispanic/European traditions. Those observing Day of the Dead believe their departed family members return to Earth for the day. In the eyes of a Mexican, it is not a somber occasion, but a time to celebrate.

Here are some links to further clarify Day of the Dead traditions:

Common misconceptions about Day of the Dead

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