Día de Muertos is not Mexican Halloween

By Sr. Martha Escobar | The Compass | October 28, 2020

Can you explain to me what Día de Muertos is? It is something we see and hear of more and it seems to have something to do with Halloween, but I don’t really understand it. — Menasha


On Nov. 1 and 2, people throughout Mexico, as well as some other countries, celebrate our Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). The Day of the Dead is not a “Mexican Halloween.” It is a celebration of religion, traditions and culture. The holiday has roots in both the indigenous cultures and the Catholic faith.

The Day of the Dead is a family celebration. Families gather together at cemeteries to clean the gravesites of their deceased loved ones and decorate them with flowers, food including pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), a traditional Mexican sweet bread and drinks.

Some families prepare private altars dedicated to the dead, decorated with offerings, family objects, flowers and food. Food is an important aspect of the “ofrenda,” or offering, to partake in communion in a meal with the souls of their loved ones.

Paper of different colors, used for decorations put up in the cemetery, represents the movement of the spirit of those who come to visit. The joy of the gathering and reunion with loved ones is represented by the yellow flowers that mark and enlighten the path of communion.

When families are reunited with their loved ones in this meal communion, they pray for those souls in purgatory, in union with those who are already enjoying the happiness of eternal life. This is a beautiful way to celebrate the communion of saints. Therefore, the Day of the Dead is really the day of life. Life is celebrated in Mexico and other places of the world with great joy, around food, with flowers and prayers, in anticipation of the life of the world to come.

Sr. Martha is Hispanic ministry director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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