The Day Of The Dead is a highly revered Mexican holiday celebrated in the country of Mexico, and in other select locations around the globe. Some have called The Day Of The Dead “a Mexican Halloween” as both holidays draw inspiration from the Catholic All Saints’ Day, both take place within a few days of each other, and both are in modern times both are sometimes celebrated by dressing up in costumes and preparing sweet snacks or candy.
The Day Of The Dead draws its inspirations from the Catholic holiday All Saints’ Day or All Souls’ Day and from an assortment of traditions that can be traced back to pagan cultures that were indigenous to Mexico. The traditional purposes of The Day Of The Dead are to remember and commemorate the lives of friends and family who have passed away, particularly in the last year.
The modern celebrations of The Day Of The Dead in Mexico take form as a massive 2 day festival that place on November 1st, and 2nd. During the festival banks and all varieties of government buildings are closed in Mexico because The Day Of The Dead is observed as a national holiday. The first day of the festival is traditionally dedicated to deceased children and babies while the second day is dedicated to adults.
To memorialize the lives of deceased loved ones friends and family will gather at the graves of the dearly departed and have mini memorial services that include building small altars for the dead with pictures of them and items that held great value to them, it is also customary to prepare the favorite meals of the dead and leave them on their graves during The Day Of The Dead. Toys are commonly left on the graves of dead children.
While the private family gatherings that occur during The Day Of The Dead are often very short and solemn memorizing the lives of cherished loved ones who have past, the festivities during the two day festival take a rather different turn celebrating the lives of the departed through festive celebrations. During the two day period it is customary for people to dress up at skeletons and preform symbolic dances passed down through history to commemorate the lives of loved ones who have passed on.
In some more urban city based areas of Mexico the festivities of the Day Of The Dead have produced customs similar to that of Halloween called Calaverita. During The Day Of The Dead’s Calaverita ceremony the young children of the community will dress up in various costumes and go door to door partaking in their version of the American’s “Trick or Treating’” and receiving small candies or other gifts.
Similar traditions around the world include the Bon Festival in Japan, the Hangawi festival in Korea, the Qingming Festival in China and the Nepali holiday of Gai Jatra. In Africa, some cultures visit the graves of their dead relatives to ask for protection during the hunting season.