Mexico celebrates a festival that is an important part of the culture of the country and happens to be a public holiday. The day is called ‘The Day of the Dead’. In America, many people celebrate the Day of the Dead in an endeavor to respect Mexican traditions. However, there is a heavy multicultural influence that one can feel during such proceedings.
If you are keen to know and experience the authentic Day of the Dead commemoration then you need to travel to Mexico.
The festival is actually associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On this day family and friends get together to remember and pray for their relatives and friends who have died.
15 Cool and Interesting Facts about the Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead festival is also called “Día de los Muertos” in other countries outside Mexico. In some Latin American countries and Spain, the public holiday and similar traditions are usually held on All Saints’ Day. To promote this festival celebrating death, The Día de Muertos was promoted throughout the country.
Today we will bring forward 15 facts about the Day of the Dead festival.
1. Both Halloween and the Day of the Dead are different
Even though both festivals occur around the same dates “The Day of the Dead” and “Halloween” have similarities in regard to their relationship with the souls, however, in reality, both are different. Day of the dead is a three-day festival that starts from 31st October and ends with a grand finale on November 2 whereas Halloween is celebrated on October 31.
The Day of the Dead festival date coincides with the Triduum: All Saints Eve (the Day of the Innocents), All Saint’s day (the Day of the Little Angels), and All Souls Day (the Day of the Dead) that are associated with Oct 31, Nov 1, and Nov 2 every year.
2. Day of the Dead has more Significance than Christmas Eve
The Day of the Dead is the biggest religious holiday in Mexico which is in fact more significant than the Christmas festival which is considered to be the most important for most Christians. On the Day of the Dead festival, people spend huge amounts of money on food and decoration. On this day there will be big public events held all across the country and there will be parades as well.
The planning of this festival is in fact made throughout the year which includes gathering different goods to be offered to the dead. Few families build small shrines in their house which might resemble a Christian cross, place statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or photos of deceased family members and other people along with many candles, and an ofrenda.
3. This festival dates back to ages
People have been celebrating the Day of the Dead by following rituals for as long as about 2,500- 3,000 years. Actually, the exact place and date of origin are not known but it’s an ancient tradition that is based on the idea that people continue to be part of the community even though they are dead. This particular concept contradicts the belief of Christians which makes this one of the most interesting facts.
Mexicans give credence to the belief that their friends and family members who are no more in this world travel from the world of the dead to the world of the living for 24 hours on this festival. That’s why they prepare food for the dead which the deceased used to love and of course for the living as well.
4. Cleaning graves is an important part of the Day
One of the most important parts of the event is cleaning wherein people clean graves in preparation for the dead spirits. Many people pay visits to the cemeteries on this day where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with a collection of objects called ofrendas like toys are brought for dead children, bottles of tequila, or wine.
There is a slight difference in the customs followed in different regions of Mexico, for example in some places there is a tradition of cleaning the bones of the dead loved ones.
5. It is not a day of Mourning but rather a day of Celebration
As the name of the festival suggests it is not just the day of death but in fact the celebration of life and death. People believe that if they mourn on that day their ancestors will not feel happy, therefore on this festival people dance, sing, and tell stories or incidents related to their deceased loved ones.
As part of the celebrations, many people spend the night by the cemetery, inside the graveyard. The purpose behind this act is to motivate visits by the souls so that they can hear their prayers and comments.
6. Bread Of The Dead
On this special day, people make traditional Mexican sweet bread called “Bread of the dead” which is made using anise seeds and orange peels. They are mostly decorated with skulls and bones that are arranged in a circle that depicts the circle of life and death.
7. La Catrina, the famous Skeleton of all times
‘La Catrina’, the design of a skull made of Zinc metal is famous all around the world. It was created by José Guadalupe Posada in the year 1910. For more than a century now it has transformed into the most important figure on this festival day.
La Catrina is the center of attraction of the festival of all the things as mythology depicts this as a much deeper statement of mortality, fate, and the social division of class.
8. UNESCO recognized this festival
UNESCO has added “The Day of the Dead” festival to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in the year 2008 whereas it was originally proclaimed in 2003.
9. Paperwork is the Beauty
One will notice that Papel Picado is available in huge quantities almost everywhere on this Day of the Dead festival. It is a delicately decorated tissue paper that depicts the winds and vulnerability of life.
10. Butterflies are believed to carry Souls
It is a common belief in Mexicans that Monarch butterflies are the returning spirits of their deceased loved ones. These butterflies appear mysteriously at the same time of the year which happens to be the same time when Day of the Dead is celebrated. According to Aztec traditions, dead spirits will return in the form of butterflies.
11. One who do not celebrate it might have to face consequences
There is another myth about this Day of the dead festival that one will face severe consequences if he/she fails to celebrate. If the dead find that their family members did not get them suitable Ofrendas (offerings) then at times they might take revenge and one has to repent through either sickness or sometimes death according to Mexican tradition.
12. This festival has its influence even in Hollywood
The American film industry is also influenced by this festival. Some parts of the festival like the fun and colors have been portrayed in some movies like ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘Corpse’s Bride.’ The festival was also made its appearance in popular movies like ‘The Book of Life’ and ‘Spectre’.
13. Parade of this day started in Mexico City recently in 2016
One of the most shocking facts about this festival is about the origins of the big parade in Mexico City. Many locals from other regions as well as foreigners visiting Mexico will be surprised to find that this parade was first started very recently in the year 2016.
14. Dog is believed to lead Spirits home
The Xoloitzcuintli popularly known as Xolo or the hairless Mexican dog is considered to be the spirit guide. The dogs are therefore included in the decor of the festival. In the year of 1956, Xolos was officially recognized in the city of Mexico. Xolos are a very unique breed of dogs and are considered to be one of the rarest breeds found in the world.
15. Many people go with Skeleton face paint to celebrate the event
On this occasion, a number of people get their face painted to look like their loved ones or at times themselves as there is no proper or improper way to paint your face. Out of many themes, Skeleton or Skull theme is the most common type of face paint one can notice during this festival.
Hope you have found the above facts about the Day of the Dead festival interesting. If you want to get yourself immersed in this festival with all the love and laughter then it should be on your top traveling priority this year to celebrate it amongst the Mexican people.
By any chance, if you are from Mexico or one of those whole celebrate the Day of the Dead, let us know your feedback to help us improvise our content in any way!