Real Talk – Day of the Dead Myths Busted

El Día de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead happens to be, curiously, one of the liveliest moments in our neighboring country, a true moment of celebration. With this in mind and in an effort to educate, here is a list of the most common misconceptions around the 2-day Muertos festivity —as it’s commonly known for short— on November 1 and 2.

Halloween-Día de los Muertos Parallelisms

  • For starters, the dates are different. Halloween is held on October 31, more prominently at night. Día de los Muertos comprises November 1’s Día de Todos los Santos or the los Santos Inocentes —innocent souls include women and children— and Día de los Difuntos, which is for the remaining.
  • Day of the Dead is not the Mexican version of Halloween. It predates Halloween, being held in Mexico since the 1800s.
  • There in nothing spine-chilling or morbid about it. While Halloween incorporates witches, ghosts, ghoul, blood, and spider webs, Muertos features an endless number of skulls and skeletons —Calacas life-size skeletons, Catrina skulls, and Padrecitos de Garbanzo, which are small bone figures with a chickpea head— only as symbols of the departed and used in festive manners principally.

Muertos Ethos

  • The fiesta honors, first and foremost, dead relatives or ancestors, one’s heritage truly. It does not, as many claim and loud-mouth, honor death per se. It introduces symbols of death to portray the ever-natural circle of life and death that surrounds us all.
  • Nothing in the Day of the Dead spells out fear or pain. Rather, it is a joyful time to remember our dearly departed, a true representation of love, respect and pride.
  • It is NOT —pretty please with sugar on top— a Latino or LatAm holiday or festivity. It is authentically Mexican. You may call it Hispanic, insofar as it derives from a syncretism of the indigenous and the Spanish Catholic belief systems.
  • Muertos is not a cult and has nothing to do with the occult, voodoo or esoteric themes.

Muertos Rituals

  • Ofrendas are offerings that most commonly take the form of an altar featuring an array of foodstuffs and water, maybe booze (that depends on the deceased), plus a selection of sweets, tobacco, music, candles.
  • Ofrendas may be as humble as a small mantlepiece altar and as grandiose as a two-story building.
  • Papier mâché figurines, skull masks, pretend bread loaves, pinatas, papel picado cardboard banners, human-sized animal representations called alebrijes… all combine in an explosion of widespread and colorful kinetic joy.