Dia de Los Muertos is NOT “Mexican Halloween”


Viri Reyes

An image of a catrina made of flowers on the streets of Uruapan, Mexico.

Viri Reyes, Staff Writer

With Halloween approaching, stores are filled with costumes, spooky decorations, and pumpkins. If you look closely, most stores sell little trinkets and decor that correspond to the traditions of El Dia de Los Muertos. As a Mexican-American myself, I get offended towards those who paint their faces as calaveritas, also incorrectly known as sugar skulls. When people buy decorations of skeletons in flowy dresses because it’s “creepy,” and adds a “Halloween feel” to their house. I think it’s cool that people admire the beauty, time and effort it takes to paint the face, but people should be aware of the customs and why they came about, so cultural appropriation doesn’t occur.

I think it’s important for people to know the difference between the Day of The Dead and Halloween. Trust me, these holidays have nothing in common besides the aspect of dressing up festively.

For one, The Day of the Dead and Halloween have no relevance to each other. Halloween is a day where some dress up in trendy costumes, go outside to trick-or treat, and spend the night eating candy. The Day of the Dead is when people who’ve lost their loved ones go to the cemetery. They aren’t dressed in beautiful flowy gowns for the fun of it, and they don’t paint their faces because it’s cute. They do it because on November 2nd, people reconnect and welcome the souls of those who are deceased. Children who have passed are celebrated on November 1st, also known as Dia de Los Santos, which translates to the Day of the Saints. Adults are celebrated on November 2nd, El Dia de Los Muertos.

Instead of houses being decorated with hanging ghosts and fake cotton spider webs, in Mexico, the streets are lined with white candles that flicker throughout the night. People aren’t knocking door to door for candy. They are all walking down in unison to the cemetery carrying candles in the names of those who have passed. Altars at the cemetery are decorated only with the things that that particular person loved.

Second, Halloween and The Day of the Dead are celebrated on different dates. Halloween is October 31st, and The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2nd. While it’s Halloween in the United States, in most parts of Mexico, everyone is busy decorating the altars and buying flowers and candles. That way, for the next two days, they have the whole day to be around their loved ones as if they were still alive. Once you’re done decorating the alter, you welcome the souls of those who have passed.

You don’t have to live in Mexico to celebrate The Day of the Dead, but you should know the meaning behind the tradition so you are not culturally appropriating sugar skulls, or saying, “the Day of the Dead is Mexican Halloween”. After all, it is a part of many people’s culture. The beauty of El Dia de Los Muertos is not the sugar skulls, it’s the meaning behind them. A day of joy and remembrance.