Day of the dead celebration open to al

Fenris Martinez, Videographer

October is such a mystical time of year. In the middle of fall, the air tastes crisp and smells of pumpkin pies, with Halloween at the end of the month. 

In Mexico, people celebrate something else that is completely separate from Halloween. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday that celebrates the life of passed loved ones in a bright and colorful manner. Even though it’s a Mexican holiday, it should not be exclusive to Mexicans. People should be able to celebrate Day of the Dead if they want to as long as they are respectful about it. 

A lot of Mexicans, and Hispanics in general, are wary of others participating in their traditions as there is a history of mockery and disrespect. These are valid concerns. However with Day of the Dead, it can be taught how to respectfully participate. Anyone can set up ofrendas, or altars, to their passed loved ones with marigold flowers, food and drink for the spirits, sugar skulls, and other little decorations. They can participate in the parades and parties that happen as well. 

The only thing non-Mexicans shouldn’t do to keep it respectful is dress up in our traditional clothing or in La Catrina make-up. La Calavera Catrina (meaning “dapper skeleton” or “elegant skull”) is a Mexican cultural character that has come to signify the willingness of Mexicans to laugh in the face of death and to remind ourselves that we are all equal in death. 

As the focus of Day of the Dead is celebrating the lives of those who have passed, it can seem a little macabre, especially to Americans. However, its bright and joyous feeling is meant to cheer us up and remember the good times with your deceased relatives. Personally, I find the celebration to be very healing and helpful in dealing with grief. My mom and I light candles on the ofrendas for each person we’ve lost. I like to talk to the one for my friend Elizabeth Richardson, or Liz. It reminds me that she isn’t truly gone, because I will always remember her. I think a lot of people could benefit from pulling themselves from the sadness for a few days. 

Day of the Dead celebrations are sometimes three days long, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Because of this, it can be celebrated in tandem with Halloween and the Catholic All Saints Day/All Souls Day. My mom tells me over in Mexico they also dress up and go trick or treating on Halloween along with whatever they are doing for Day of the Dead. 

All Saints Day/All Souls Day actually came from the Spanish conquistadores when they colonized the Aztec festivals that turned into the modern Day of the Dead. The days are Dia de los Inocentes (for children that passed) and Dia de los Difuntos (for the adults). Everyone can be included in the celebrations. 

If non-Mexicans want to celebrate Day of the Dead with us, they totally can. They can pay respects to the deceased and participate in the happy celebrations. People can be pulled from their grief a bit, or come more to terms with the death. And they can celebrate along with the other holidays that happen at the same time. Day of the Dead is a sacred holiday to Mexicans, but with respect, all people can honor their dead in those same celebrations.