Holidays & Occasions

All About Day of the Dead: History & Traditions

Day of the Dead

Halloween is a festive time of year and signals the changing seasons. Pumpkins are everywhere, along with tones of orange, brown, and yellow. We come together to celebrate, dress up as “scary” skeletons and other things. Much of the traditions of Halloween sound a lot like Day of the Dead, but what exactly is it? Many think that it is the same celebration as Halloween, just with a different name.

Day of the dead, or Dia de los Muertos, could easily be confused with Halloween and often is. Although there are some similarities, there are also many differences. We are here to give you the basics of what Day of the Dead is all about.

 

History

Unlike Halloween, Day of the Dead doesn’t take place on October 31st. It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. The holiday is a long-standing tradition that has its origins in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. It has melded parts of Catholic traditions from the Spanish conquistadors (Spanish explorers or conquerors) with parts of indigenous Aztec rituals. Variations of Day of the Dead has been celebrated for approximately 2,000 – 3,000 years. Besides being the first and second of November, these days are also recognized as All Saints Day and All Souls Day in Catholicism. Although researchers vary in their opinions, Day of the Dead indigenous origins are said to have been partly due to a celebration for an Aztec goddess—Lady of the Dead. This holiday shows a blending of two different cultural practices.

Despite its association with the deceased, this Latin American tradition is anything but solemn or sad. Rather than focusing on the sadness of death, Dia de los Muertos brings to light the beauty of the cycle of life and the good that came of those lives that have passed.  Families of passed loved ones come together to celebrate with food, drinks, costumes, and uplifting stories about the departed.

Traditions

The celebrations of Day of the Dead are not complete without the presence of skeletons and skulls everywhere, also known as calacas and calaveras. Skulls/skeletons are made in the form of candies (sugar skulls), bread, masks, dolls, and of course, celebrators also paint and dress themselves to look like the dead.

During the celebration, many gather at the burial site of their loved ones or bring the celebration to their own homes. Here, there is typically music, food, drinks, and fond recollections of those that have passed. Essentially, the celebrations are filled with anything that would be thought to bring happiness to the dead, and to show that they are still loved and not forgotten. Also, the loudness of the celebration is said to be a way of waking up the sleeping dead.

Additionally, there are ofrendas, or offerings/alters, made for the dead. Ofrendas often have photos of the deceased, their favorite foods and relics, and marigold flowers. Marigolds are heavily associated with Day of the Dead. The beautiful flowers are thought to guide the souls to their families. Their vivid orange color and strong scent are intended to encourage souls to visit their living loved ones during this two-day celebration. As such, marigolds are often left at alters or burial sites, brought into the home, or even worn in hairstyles or on clothing. For infants and children that have passed, white orchids and baby’s breath are often left instead of bright marigolds.

 

Despite the intimacy with death, this celebration does not include any intended “scary” elements. Like a birthday party, Day of the Dead could be considered an annual “death day party.” Therefore, if you’re thinking about joining this wonderful celebration of death, you’ll want to make sure that you incorporate as many elements of the tradition as you can.

Let The Bouqs Co do our part in helping you show your love and remembrance of the dead this holiday. Our Pumpkin Patch Bouq and Bonfire Bouqs are not only beautiful for the fall season, but also contain the bold, orange marigolds that are a staple for Day of the Dead festivities! Whether or not you choose to celebrate this holiday, be sure to spend a happy moment remembering the lives of those that have passed.

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