Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one of Mexico’s most beloved holidays. It’s a festival filled with vibrant colors, sweet treats, and ancient traditions, which lasts from October 31 until November 2. Day of the Dead in Mexico isn’t simply about having fun and getting a day off from school. The Day of the Dead meaning to Mexicans runs deep and encompasses culture, tradition, community, and celebration.
Day of the Dead history goes back 3,000 years to the days when the Aztecs ruled the land. In Aztec culture, mourning and crying over the dead was considered disrespectful, and instead, the dead were remembered with joy, and their lives were celebrated. After someone died, the Aztecs believed that souls went into an afterlife that wasn’t far from the real world. Souls were able to stay close to their families, and at the beginning of each summer, families would set up shrines to pay respect to their departed loved ones. Day of the Dead history developed as Mexican culture changed. When Spanish colonization and Catholicism arrived, the Mexican holiday shifted to align with All Saints’ Day at the end of October.
Today, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of Mexican heritage and tradition. Like most holidays around the world, there are a variety of traditions that families look forward to partaking in each year. Pan de muerto is a traditional sweet bread coated in sugar that dates back to pre-Hispanic times, and it’s eaten each year during Day of the Dead. Families still build memorial altars with traditional elements that allows them to remember their loved ones who passed away. The Day of the Dead meaning is rooted in these traditions and is largely based in celebrating the country’s heritage.
Dia de los Muertos is a time for people to come together in Mexico to remember their shared heritage and their loved ones who have passed away. One tradition during the festivities for Day of the Dead in Mexico is to clean up grave sites, taking away old decorations and brightening them up with colorful flowers and the warm glow of candles. People from around the community will come together to transform cemeteries into bright places that reflect the love they still have for those who have died. As they work on this project, families will share stories and snacks, creating a strong sense of connection. Rather than feeling alone in grief, this Mexican holiday allows families and communities to come together in remembrance.
Day of the Dead in Mexico is also about celebration. Despite what others may think, Mexicans see this as a joyful time with all the cultural and community events. Today, the Day of the Dead meaning is celebrated with parties, parades, and prayers. Families and schools will host celebrations where people can come together, often in elaborate costumes and sometimes in traditional outfits as Day of the Dead calacas, or skeletons. The calacas are often depicted wearing elegant, Victorian outfits, a reminder that underneath what’s on the outside, we’re all the same. Many cities even have parades that include groups dressed up in these classic Dia de los Muertos costumes. But most important celebration during this Mexican holiday are the prayers and remembrances that families pay to those who have passed away, as they share their stories and memories in celebration of the lives they lived.
While the Day of the Dead history extends back over 3,000 years, the culture of celebration is still alive and well today in Mexico. This joyful holiday isn’t just about treats, costumes, and having fun. The true meaning of Dia de los Muertos lies in the culture and community that are celebrated every year.