When you think of Dia De Los Muertos, you probably think masks, skeletons, and the smell of fresh corn, but there’s more to it than that! The holiday begins on November 1, a day some cultures refer to as “All Souls’ Day,” and then continues into November 2. Many people think of this celebration as being the equivalent of “Spanish Halloween,” but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Dia De Los Muertos Origins
As AZcentral will tell you, Dia De Los Muertos was begun by the Aztecs over 3,000 years ago, and was initially viewed as blasphemous by 16th-century Spaniards.
However, the festival has survived long since its original founding. Though not exactly equivalent to Halloween in North America, the Day of The Dead does have some similar overlaps. For instance, people dress up in costume or face paint, and scary decor such as skeletons are not uncommon.
Unlike America’s Halloween, though, this spooky Spanish holiday is meant to honor one’s ancestors. According to the New Mexico University website, it’s typically celebrated by creating altars that consist of candy, flowers, and adornments such as the loved one’s favorite food and drink. The altar is also sometimes decorated with Pan Muerto, or Bread of The Dead.
Another custom during this creepy celebration is the Sugar Skull.
A recipe on MexicanSugarSkull.com tells you how to make these creepy creations using water, sugar, and meringue powder (can be bought or made from eggs and cornstarch). There are also specifics about which types of meringue powder to use.
The skulls are commonly used as decorations at altars, and are also part of the effort to remember and pay tribute to ancestors who have passed. Should you wish to get super festive, you can also find sugar skull facepaint tutorials on YouTube.
Variations On Day Of The Dead
Many Spanish-speaking countries share in the traditions of Day of The Dead, though some tweak the celebration slightly.
NPR tells the story of indigenous people in Ecuador, who label the holiday Dia De Los Difuntos (Day Of The Deceased) and bring meals to the graves of the dead. These meals might consist of, for instance, baked potatoes stuffed with meat and vegetables.
Ecuador and Mexico aren’t the only ones that have their own Halloween season celebrations, though. Check out these celebrations that occur on or around Halloween around the world:
- England: November 5 brings Guy Fawkes Day in the country of tea and crumpets. This annual holiday is celebrated in honor of a revolutionary who tried to blow up the parliament building, and as History.com mentions involves fireworks, bonfires, and effigies.
- Ireland: Halloween has its origins in this land of cliffs and hills, so it’s not a big surprise that its celebrations are similar to those in the U.S. History.com found that the Irish light bonfires and have kids go around in costumes “trick-or-treating.”
- China: In the middle of July, the Chinese celebrate “Teng Chieh.” This entails bringing food and water in front of photographs of deceased family members, as Novareinna notes. The Chinese also typically make paper lanterns and light them ablaze.
- Czechoslovakia: The Czechs put chairs by their fireplace on Halloween. There is one chair there for each living family member, and one for the spirit of each departed member.
- France: Despite being near England, the French don’t adopt British traditions of Halloween. Instead, they refrain from celebration in honor of the dead. Interestingly enough, this “hallowed day” was not well-known in France until the 1990s.
- Germany: Perhaps one of the more unique and interesting celebrations. Germans hide their knives on this night so that no harm comes to the spirits of the dead.
Let us know which Halloween celebrations you like the best below.
[Featured Image By Alex Borovsky/Shutterstock]