A Night Life: El Día de los Muertos v Halloween

By the end of October, the majority of us fully embrace Halloween and its ghoulish traditions, while many others anticipate el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. These celebrations are huge, bringing families and friends together to partake in the holiday activities. However, these celebrations do raise a question: Which day is better? Halloween or el Día de los Muertos? To answer that, we need to go way back, to where these celebrations originated.

El Día de los Muertos began with the Aztecs, an indigenous group from Mexico in the 12th century. The special day celebrates the arrival of loved ones who have passed away from October 31 to November 1 and 2. The name itself is ironic, as death is traditionally associated with grief and mournfulness, when in fact the celebration is very colorful and beautiful. Throughout this celebration, families and friends set up an altar that help guide the spirit of their loved one to the living world. This guidance is aided by many elements that target the senses of the 

human body: their sense of smell by cempazúchitl, Mexico’s native orange flower; their sense of taste through the deceased’s favorite dish and drink; their sense of touch through water from a pitcher; and their sense of sight through the faces of their family members and their precious belongings on the altar.

This day is extremely important to the Mexican culture because it’s a reminder that death is not just a gloomy time– it can be rather sweet like the sugar skulls placed on the altars. El Día de los Muertos is more than a huge celebration with parades. The Day of the Dead brings the family together as we remember those before us. Celebrating this day each year also maintain the rich Aztec tradition.

On the other hand, there’s Halloween. This holiday comes from an old European tradition, specifically the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. Similar to the Day of the Dead, people believed that the border between the living world and the dead world blurred on Halloween, allowing spirits to cross. Celts believed that this crossover allowed the priest to foretell the future, so they built a bonfire and danced around it while donning animal heads and skin.

Nowadays, Halloween is all about decorating your house in the spookiest way you can. It’s about dressing up as one of your favorite characters and going trick-or-treating with family and friends,then fighting with your siblings about who got the most candy that night. Like the Day of the Dead, it brings families (even entire neighborhoods!) together as they decorate their homes with fake skeletons, small bats, and cotton ball spider webs, and host Halloween parties full of fun activities like carving out a pumpkin or bobbing for apples.

At the end of the day, both holidays are awesome in their own way. They’re both fun and exciting with their festivities. What do you think? Is Halloween the best, or would that honor go to the Day of the Dead?