On the Day of the Dead, the boundaries between life and death begin to blur. Men, women and children of all ages honor and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away, participating joyously in a festival that has roots nearly 4000 years old.
Dia de los Muertos altar in Mexico
Photo © Eneas
What is Day of the Dead?
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated on October 31 - November 2 of each year.
In Spanish, this holiday is called Día de los Muertos and/or Día de Muertos - the "correct" term depends on who you talk to, but generally both are used by native Spanish speakers and both are understood globally to refer to Day of the Dead. Sometimes you'll also see these terms in the plural – "Days of the Dead" or "Días de los Muertos", because technically the holidays fall over a span of days.
Day of the Dead has gained worldwide popularity in recent years as it has spread from Mexico to America and beyond. It is now celebrated by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and countless others around the globe who feel a deep kinship with these two special days that honor the dead.
Why is Día de los Muertos such a fascinating holiday?
Foremost, Día de los Muertos is a time of celebration. Although losing someone is undeniably a somber and life-changing event, Día de Muertos provides people with the opportunity to rejoice in the living memories of their loved ones.
The Días de Muertos serve as a positive affirmation of the cycle of life and death, allowing people to reconnect with the spirits of their loved ones on the Other Side.
Cleaning and decorating graves for Día de los Muertos
Photo © Alejandro Linares Garcia
Día de Muertos occurs on many levels:
Día de los Muertos expresses the beauty and mystery of life and death. For many, it is a time of partying and celebration; for others, it is a time of introspection. At its most potent, it is a balanced blend of the two.
Día de los Muertos skeleton
Photo © Esparta
Although it originated in Mexico, Día de los Muertos is now celebrated in many different parts of the world. This special holiday is colored and altered by the unique traditions and flavors of each city, region and country where it is celebrated as other cultures mix, blend, and adapt Day of the Dead rituals with their own local traditions to make the holiday their own… yet the overall meaning usually stays the same.
On this site, you can learn how to celebrate Día de los Muertos in your own home or community. Explore this site to:
This Day of the Dead site serves as an educational resource for people to learn about Día de los Muertos. For all intents and purposes, this site does not seek to be an exhaustive academic or anthropological study of the Día de los Muertos holiday and ensuing cultural phenomenon – it is merely a fun and helpful guide that provides insight on Mexico's most famous holiday and how it's influence is being spread around the world. If you're doing academic research, please consult published books and articles from established institutions (such as museums or universities) for your references.