Dia de los Muertos

“Trick or a Treat”, a popular saying said in the United States on the 31st of October. Halloween is a day where people take the opportunity to dress up as someone else. They can be a hero, someone famous or something scary. This is only one day out of the year where Americans of all ages dress up. Kids get the joy of dressing up and going door to door receiving candy while adults dress up and go to parties and have some laughs.

Madison Howard, a dental hygiene major defines Halloween as “getting dressed up and going out with friends, if people didn’t get mad at older trick-or-treaters I’d still do that too.” This is a typical Halloween in the United States, but what about other countries, do they follow the same traditions?

Mexico celebrates in a whole different way. Mexico calls Dia De los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). This is a two-day celebration that honors the deceased of friends and family of the living.  The festivities start on November 1st  and go through November 2nd, this gives the living the chance to remember the deceased and celebrate their lives with stories and memories.

Day of the dead is not just a Mexican tradition. Many Latin-oriented countries also celebrate it in different ways. Bryan Garay, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, said, “My family is from Spain and celebrates the Day of the Dead, but not as much. But mainly Central America and South America people celebrate it.”

To pay their respects to the dead, the family members of the dead make altars. Altars are made with flowers and ofrendas (offerings) of fruits, vegetables and the special dishes prepared for the soul to enjoy the essence of the aroma of the food. The altar will also have items that once belong to the deceased and other essentials for the spirits to clean up after long travels back to earth; wash bowl, basin, razors and soap. The alter is also packed with photos of the deceased and anything that the deceased enjoyed, if it was smokes or candy, it is placed on the altar.

There are many purposes of what is set on the altar. Candles are put on the altar to help light the way and make the decorations visible. Food is set out to feed the spirits and pillow and blankets are left out for them to rest after their long journey. All the decorations also have the meaning of earth, wind, water and fire. Paper represents the wind, a bowl of water is for water, candles for fire and food for the earth.

“I can honestly say I haven’t celebrated it, but what I know is that it is a celebration of our ancestors, to honor them by having a fiesta at their graveyard and also leaving them food so they can eat in peace,” Garay said about the Day of the Dead.

The first day of the celebration is dedicated to the angelitos (the angels). According to traditions these are the children who died before they could experience the joys and sorrows of adulthood. This event takes place in the cemetery early morning of the first.  The godparents of the angelitos are in charge of making the altars of the children and delivering it to the homes of the parents. Toys are brought to the altars of the children.

The adults are honored at midnight. This is when the living and dead will reunite. The bell at the church rings all night, calling the spirits to return and enjoy the ceremony that they have prepared for them. In most places where Day of the Dead is celebrated, the women and children are the ones who find their relatives and place candles, flowers and food that their deceased enjoyed while alive. Throughout the night the women and children chant prayers and sing songs asking for the eternal rest of the spirits.

Not every country follows the same traditions ; some countries celebrate with different meanings in different ways.