Fun Facts About El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead)

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It’s not the same as Halloween

Halloween is celebrated Oct. 31, Día de los Muertos is celebrated right after, on Nov. 2. Many communities that celebrate Día de los Muertos also celebrate Halloween.

It originated in Mexico and Central America

After the arrival of the Spanish, this ritual of commemorating the dead was intertwined with two Spanish holidays: All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2). Día de los Muertos is often celebrated on Nov. 1 as a day to remember children who have passed away, and on Nov. 2 to honor adults.

Día de los Muertos originated in ancient Mesoamerica (Mexico and northern Central America) where indigenous groups, including Aztec, Maya and Toltec, had specific times when they commemorated their loved ones who had passed away. Certain months were dedicated to remembering the departed, based on whether the deceased was an adult or a child.

Today, Día de los Muertos is celebrated mostly in Mexico and some parts of Central and South America. Recently it has become increasingly popular among Latino communities abroad, including in the United States.

It’s a celebration of life, not death

Ancient Mesoamericans believed that death was part of the journey of life. Rather than death ending life, they believed that new life came from death. This cycle is often associated with the cyclical nature of agriculture, whereby crops grow from the ground where the last crop lies buried.

Día de los Muertos is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones. Like any other celebration, Día de los Muertos is filled with music and dancing. Some popular dances include La Danza de los Viejitos—the dance of the little old men—in which boys and young men dress as old men, walk around crouched over then suddenly jump up in an energetic dance. Another dance is La Danza de los Tecuanes—the dance of the jaguars—that depicts farm workers hunting a jaguar.

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