The Pioneer

Dia de los Muertos and Halloween history

PHOTO BY DANIEL ARAUZ/FLICKR

PHOTO BY DANIEL ARAUZ/FLICKR

By Marisol Martinez Garcia, SPANISH EDITOR

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Celebrating the dead on All Hallow’s Eve

Candy, children dressed as their favorite superheroes and scary decorations have been large part of the Halloween tradition celebrated around the globe.
We see new traditions and beliefs come to life during Halloween time as cultures and customs change through the diversification of communities. The celebration of “Dia de los Muertos” has become well known and through the process of making sugar skulls, remembrance alters and the practice of traditional religious elements.
“[This is a] custom that combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadors,” according to National Geographic.

“Those who celebrate this day recognize that death is not sad but, a necessary part of life that assures that families do not forget their loved ones after death.”

Dia de los Muertos is meant to honor and commemorate loved ones that have passed. It is also a day to celebrate All-Saints and Souls Day which runs Nov. 1 to Nov. 2. Triple-layer alters are built to represent the sky, earth and purgatory. Alters are decorated with pictures of saints, “pan de muerto” (bread of the dead), sugar skulls and drinks for those in transit from the after-life.
Alters also include photos of loved ones that have departed in hopes that they will visit the altar that their family members created for them. Crosses and religious figures, candles and “cempasuchil” (marigolds) represent guidance for departed souls in order for them to find their way back to the altar that was made for them.
The two day celebration takes place at the graveyards where loved ones are buried. Family and friends bring decorative flowers like the traditional marigolds, food and live music to loved ones’ graves where they spend both days in remembrance of their deceased family members
Those who celebrate this day recognize that death is not sad, but a necessary part of life. The celebration assures that families do not forget their loved ones after death. On the other hand, Halloween is a tradition that comes from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where the boundary between the living and dead worlds would blur.
All Hallows’ Eve, the official name of Halloween, is the night before All Saints Day, also known as, Dia de los Muertos.
Trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and wearing costumes are traditions that come from countries like Ireland, Scotland and Wales, that were brought to America by European settlers during colonial times.
New traditions are celebrated and new meanings are given to old ones as America’s melting pot of communities bring new traditions to adopt. The Mexican and European cultures of Halloween, All Saints Day and Dia de los Muertos have brought more meaning to the end of October and beginning of November.

PHOTO BY ROBERT BESIL/FLICKR

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