Day of the Dead Honors – The Deceased Holiday’s Focus Different than Halloween’s

Written By Gerald Erichsen, www.About.com

Presented by Gary Beck, http://www.cafepress.com/vallartaguide

Dia De Los Muertos Art

Day of the Dead Skulls

Mexican Food Dishes

At first glance, the Mexican custom of El Día de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — may sound much like the U.S. custom of Halloween. After all, the celebration traditionally starts at midnight the night of Oct. 31, and the festivities are abundant in images related to death.

But the customs have different origins, and their attitudes toward death are different: In the typical Halloween festivities, death is something to be feared. But in el día de los muertos, death — or at least the memories of those who have died — is something to be celebrated.

El día de los muertos, which continues until Nov. 2, has become one of the biggest holidays in Mexico, and celebrations are becoming more common in areas of the United States with a large Hispanic population. Its origins are distinctly Mexican: During the time of the Aztecs, a monthlong summer celebration was overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. After the Aztecs were conquered by Spain and Catholicism became the dominant religion, the customs became intertwined with the Christian commemoration of All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1.

Specifics of the celebration vary with region, but one of the most common customs is the making of elaborate altars to welcome departed spirits home. Vigils are held, and families often go to cemeteries to fix up the graves of their departed relatives. Festivities also frequently include traditional foods such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which can conceal a miniature skeleton.

There are some other Web sites where you can learn more about the celebration.