When you hear Day of the Dead or in Spanish, Día de los Muertos, it sounds pretty spooky, right? It is not! Many people think that Día de los Muertos is the Latino version of Halloween, but they couldn’t be more different.
Most Americans know that Halloween is celebrated on October 31st and began as a Celtic festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and more recently is a tradition of costume wearing and trick-or-treating.
Día de los Muertos is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd and mainly in Mexico or by individuals with Mexican heritage. It is actually a really beautiful celebration that views death as a welcomed part of life and a time when family and friends gather to celebrate, pay their respects and remember loved ones that have died.
During the holidays, it is very typical to visit, clean and decorate the grave of a loved one and to construct an altar (altar) in your home decorated with a colorful cut tissue-like paper (papel picado) and photos (fotos) of those who you are remembering.
The altar usually consists of offerings (ofrendas) like the favorite foods and belongings of the departed. In addition there are the beautifully scented orange-colored marigold flowers (caléndula or cempasúchil) also referred to as ‘Flower of the Dead’ (Flor de Muerto) which are believed to be the pathways that guide the spirits to their offerings: bread of the dead (pan de muertos), water (agua), candles (velas) and skulls (calaveras) that are seen in the form of sugar candies (alfeñiques), clay decorations and face painting.
The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead and every offering (ofrenda) has an important meaning to symbolize the four elements of nature: water (agua), wind (viento) represented by the papel picado, earth (tierra) represented by food and fire (fuego) represented by the candles.
In summary, Día de los Muertos could not be more different than Halloween. It is a very meaningful celebration where we remember the loved ones that are no longer with us. It is a celebration of life rather than death since the dead will live on in our hearts and minds unless we forget them.
Let’s test out your knowledge about Día de los Muertos and practice your Spanish!
Check your answers at the bottom of this post.
Answer the following questions with true (cierto) or false (falso):
El Día de los Muertos…
- Se celebra el 31 de octubre.
- Es una celebración de España.
- Las familias construyen altares para honrar a los ancestros.
- Es un dia triste.
- Las calabazas y las brujas son símbolos de este día.
- Las personas comen pan de muertos.
- Es un día espantoso.
- Es típico ver cempasúchil y papel picado.
- Se usan las calaveras para decorar los altares.
- Es un día para recordar a los queridos que han muerto.
We hope you enjoyed this explanation of Día de los Muertos and its differences from Halloween. You can find more content and online Spanish courses at Down to Earth Spanish, where you will find a variety of self-paced online Spanish courses and free printables and digital worksheets.
Answers (Respuestas): 1.F 2. F 3. C 4. F 5. F 6. C 7. F 8. C 9. C 10. C