There many curious similarities between the ritual celebrations of Halloween and Día de Muertos, (Day of the Dead) and even though the way in which they are celebrated differs nowadays, the original festivities have more in common than one would think.
1. Both are celebrated almost on the same date.
While Halloween is celebrated on October 31st, Día de Muertos is observed on November 1st and 2nd. Although in Samhain, the Celtic festivity that originated Halloween, was originally celebrated on November 1st, Mexican tradition considers that the dead return to this world between October 28th and November 2nd.
2. Both were originally “pagan” celebrations.
Halloween is a celebration incorporated from Celtic pagan beliefs, while the Día de Muertos comes from the Mesoamerican tradition and may have a history of over 3000 years.
3. Both festivities were “incorporated” in the All Saints’ Day.
The Catholic Church repeatedly incorporated many celebrations from “other” cultures in order to ease the evangelization process of the people it sought to convert. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints’ Day adopted some of the traditions of Samhain and afterwards, included elements of the Mesoamerican rite.
4. Both accept the existence of “spirits”.
Within these original festivities it was believed that the dead returned as ghosts and both the Celtic sand Mesoamericans would offer food and beverages to honor the deceased on their trip back to the “human” world.
Although we find some similarities, it is important to point out some of the differences.
1. Jack O’Lanterns and Candles
While Jack O‘Lanterns are used to ward off evil spirits, candles in the Mexican ofrendas or altar offerings, are lit in order to guide the paths of the spirits on their way back home.
2. ¿Giving or asking?
In Mexico people did not originally ask for candy, but instead, offered candy to their dead. Pranks or “Trick or Treat” petitions were not a part of the Mexican tradition, and have only recently been absorbed into modern day culture.
3. Costumes and skull decoration.
On Día de Muertos masks, costumes or disguises are not meant to terrorize. Skulls and skeletons are used only as part of the altar decorations.
4. Pan de muerto, (Bread of the Dead) Skulls made of sugar and chocolate skulls
The traditional Pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead), along with sugar and chocolate skulls are produced only during or close to the festivities that commemorate this celebration.