Halloween or Dia de los Muertos?

Dan Moreno

Mexico is blessed with a rich history and a wealth of traditions, which I’ve always been proud and happy to celebrate. I remember how fun it was to wear a creepy costume every Halloween in Mexico and go trick-or-treating with my neighborhood friends, just like the holiday’s custom in the U.S.

Celebrated by Mexicans on Nov. 1- 2, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a tradition that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. It is important to note that Día de los Muertos is not Mexican Halloween. Even though the dates are close and the themes are similar, they are two different holidays. I, like many others, celebrate both.

Día de los Muertos

is a solemn time to commemorate and  lovingly remember relatives and friends who have passed away. Although it may seem depressing, this festivity is a joyous celebration. In this sense, it is different from the notion of evil spirits and creepy-crawlies that come back to haunt at Halloween.

My favorite things about Día de los Muertos are the offerings. Altars are set up in homes and public places to remember loved ones. Offerings range from the very humble to the exuberant, but they are all equally symbolic and heartfelt. It is believed these offerings serve as a connection between the living and the dead since the spirits come back to visit during this holiday and partake in the offerings.

Last year I set up my own altar in my apartment. I did it for two reasons. First, there were three people I lost last year, to whom I wanted to pay my respects. Second, I wanted to feel closer to my culture and express the pride I feel for my Mexican roots.

On the other hand, Halloween in the U.S. is all about having fun. It’s all about wearing costumes and enjoying a good fright. It certainly has its own history and Old World roots, but the way we celebrate it today seems to be disconnected from these roots.  I think Halloween doesn’t have a sense of reverence and solemnity compared to Día de los Muertos.

I wouldn’t dare choose a favorite between these two holidays. Halloween has always appealed to my love of costumes and masks. Día de los Muertos represents the traditions and memories of my childhood and culture. I’m grateful and fortunate to celebrate both.

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