The Real Meaning of El Dia de Los Muertos

Diamond Nunez

Some people know about “El Dia de los Muertos,” better known in America as “Day of the Dead. A lot of people are drawn to all the gorgeous colors and cute makeup tutorials, but many don’t realize that it is actually one of Latin America’s most misunderstood holidays!

This holiday originated as an Aztec harvest gathering in which people would spend time honoring their loved ones who had passed away. As time went on, the holiday morphed into a more religious event.

In case you don’t know the true meaning behind it, I want to explain what a beautiful tradition it actually is. This is not Mexico’s Halloween. This event is a 3 day event, and each day has a different meaning. It starts on the 31st of October and ends on November the 2nd.

October 31st is referred to as “Hallows Eve” which means they are preparing the altar. An altar is  a place where they put their offering to the dead. People will put a picture of their loved one(s) along with an object of something he or she liked. These altars are decorated and then left in either the person’s home or on their tomb to show that they have not been forgotten. The next day, people will celebrate all the children who have passed away. Lastly, on the final day, they will celebrate all the adults and elderly people who have died. Celebrators of this long tradition believe the spirits of their loved ones are allowed to join and communicate with the people they left behind on those two days.

One of the symbols of this holiday is “the lady in the hat,” La Catrina. She is a female skeleton who wears a brightly colored dress and elaborate hat. Unlike the skeletons associated with Halloween, La Catrina is not meant to scare people or make fun of death. She is actually just showing that it’s okay not to fear death. Her outfit also symbolizes someone who is wealthy, but it’s used to show that all people are equal in death. There are no rich or poor in the afterlife.

While El Día de los Muertos was initially only celebrated in Mexico, it has since become popular in the United States and other countries. This is because of the rapidly growing Hispanic population and an increasing influence of Latin-American culture.

So, while on the surface the Day of the Dead might appear to be just like Halloween, the holiday is actually much different because it is a beautiful, joyful holiday to honor those who have passed before us.

If this is something you would like to learn more about, I would recommend the movie Coco to you. It is a great reference to what the Day of the Dead is really about.

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