Dia de Muertos


Rachel "ChaCha" McGoff, Writer

The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is a popular holiday that originates from Mexico.

Contrary to popular belief, Dia de los Muertos is not the Mexican version of Halloween, it is a three day event from Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

They are celebrated vastly different. Dia de los Muertos is a lively celebration for deceased family.

The roots of the Day of the Dead, celebrated in contemporary Mexico and among those of Mexican heritage around the world, go back some 3,000 years, to the rituals honoring the dead in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Aztecs and other Nahua people living in what is now central Mexico held a cyclical view of the universe, and saw death as an integral, ever-present part of life.

Upon dying, a person was believed to travel to Chicunamictlán, the Land of the Dead. Only after getting through nine challenging levels, a journey of several years, could the person’s soul finally reach Mictlán, the final resting place. In Nahua rituals honoring the dead, traditionally held in August, family members provided food, water and tools to aid the deceased in this difficult journey. This inspired the contemporary Day of the Dead practice in which people leave food or other offerings on their loved ones’ graves, or set them out on makeshift altars called ofrendas in their homes.

It is also important to understand the difference between Dia de los Muertos and the popular Catholic version of the same holiday, All Souls Day. The Catholic holiday is a one day event that serves as a day of remembrance like Dia de Muertos. However, on All Souls Day the Catholic Church doesn’t believe the souls come back to earth for this one day. The Church also doesn’t believe in Chicunamictlán and Mictlán or that our earthly materials are needed in the next life.

In America, Dia de los Muertos is not widely celebrated but there are traditions that have been adopted. Sugar skulls and Dia de los Muertos decoration has been become part of Halloween and Americanized.

Many people buy Dia de los Muertos without the realization they’re not the same holiday.  The traditions that aren’t popular in America are ofrendas or alters.

The ofrendas are decorated with flowers, sugar skulls, rice, beans, chilies and more. On the ofrendas there are treats and drinks that the person loved when they spent their time on earth. This lets the loved ones enjoy earthly pleasures again.

In Mexico Dia de los Muertos is widely celebrated. The three day event is celebrated with partying, parades, singing, dancing, and more. In contrast to Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is full of love and remembrance.

As junior Dayanara Carbajal Flores said, “The families are so united. It didn’t matter what happened. There’s just so much love.”