Goblins, ghosts and frights, oh my! That spooky time of year is fast approaching once again, and to celebrate, we’ve searched high and low for the most interesting events around the world that both the living and dead take part in.
What takes place, however, isn’t what you might expect. Festive masks? Bright decorations? Dancing? They’re all just a few of the ways in which we celebrate the deceased around the globe. Read on, if you dare…
Mexico – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
You might think that a festival entitled Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) could be a bit of a drag, but this is no sombre occasion!
Dating back nearly 4,000 years, this festival is one of Mexico’s oldest and most unique celebrations (although you‘ll find similar traditions all over Latin America as well). Its origins lie with the Spanish invasion of the Aztecs back in 1521—a time when Spanish-Catholic and Indigenous beliefs and influences converged to form a new festival. Originally a month long, Dia de los Muertos was eventually shortened down to two days, being the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd respectively).
Many Mexicans believe that a person’s soul never dies, so the fiesta begins with an invitation from the living to the dead to return to their family home for a visit. Revelers then gather in homes and in graveyards to share stories about their deceased loved ones.
Beautifully elaborate altars—ofrendas—are created in homes and adorned with photographs and offerings. Families also clean and decorate the burial sites of the departed—you’ll often find graves covered in wild marigolds, candles, and offerings of food and drink.
As the celebrations continue, the melodies you hear floating out of the graveyard aren’t coming from a ghostly choir, but rather from musicians hired to regale the dead with their favourite songs. Meanwhile, the living have their fun too—special foods such as pan de muerto (Day of the Dead sweet egg bread) are enjoyed, while revelers don bright colours, masks and skeletal face paint as they celebrate the circle of life and death.