All Souls' Day / Día de los Muertos

All Souls' Day / Día de los Muertos

You might be familiar with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) from the animated movie "Coco" by Disney, where a 12-year-old Mexican boy, Miguel, travels to the Land of the Dead and meets his ancestors. However, although the movie tries to portray this tradition, it comprises far more elements than represented in it. As this day is one of the most important holidays of the year in Mexico, we have gathered some facts about this festival.

What is the Day of the Dead?

What is the Day of the Dead?

This tradition is a celebration in honor of the deceased. It is a joyous day filled with colors and liveliness, and although the name of the festival might seem grim, in reality, this day is a celebration of life, not death. On this day, it is believed that the souls of the deceased awaken from eternal sleep to return to the world of the living and receive honors from their living relatives. Instead of mourning lost family members, people remember the dead by organizing impressive parades with people in skeleton costumes and picnics at cemeteries, where they eat the deceased's favorite food and share memories of the deceased. Many families also create so-called "ofrendas" - a kind of altar where they place photos of the dead and sacrificial gifts needed by the deceased in their journey. Today, this day is also celebrated in other Latin American countries, each of which has its own traditions associated with the festival. Although talking about the dead, visiting cemeteries, and skeleton costumes may seem eerie, there is nothing sinister in this tradition. Quite the contrary!

When is this day celebrated?

When is the Day of the Dead Celebrated

This holiday is celebrated on the same day every year. Officially, it is celebrated on November 2, but in many places, celebrations begin as early as October 31. On November 1, many Mexicans spend the night in cemeteries where their deceased relatives are buried. They bring candles and orange "tagetes" flowers to help the dead find their way back to the world of the living more easily.

Where does this tradition originate?

Day of the Dead – an ancient tradition

The Day of the Dead is an ancient tradition. However, historians do not quite agree on where it originated. For a long time, it was believed to be a pre-Columbian tradition over 2000 years old, but today many believe that it is actually a reworked version of an old Spanish, and therefore European, tradition – the same one we in Denmark know as All Saints' Day. Some also believe that this holiday is a mixture of two traditions that together form Día de los Muertos. Regardless of where this holiday originated, for Mexicans, it is of great importance. So important that the Day of the Dead is included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, which means that efforts will be made to protect and preserve it, including by raising awareness about it.

Where is this festival celebrated?

Day of the Dead Celebrated in Mexico

As already mentioned, the Day of the Dead is of great importance to most Mexicans. Therefore, this festival can be seen throughout Mexico, although the city of Oaxaca in the state of the same name is known as the place of one of the best Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. Wherever you are in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, it would be a shame not to participate in the celebrations. It will undoubtedly be an impressive experience for a lifetime!