Halloween is right around the corner — and so is Día de los Muertos. Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, coinciding with All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day, and a flashy holiday to say the least. During this time, people assemble ornate altars with gifts for the dead, including sweet bread, flowers and candles, decorate sugar skulls, make papel picado and gather in the streets and cemeteries to remember the dead. Guatemalans create large, elaborate kites and prepare fiambre, a super-stuffed salad that “can contain anything from baby corn to beef tongue” because, “who knows what the dead want?”
And of course Latino communities in the U.S. refuse to be left behind in the festivities. College campuses across the country are gearing up for Day of the Dead celebrations. Cities, from Oakland, California to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have planned events, which include art exhibitions, parades and Halloween-esque haunted houses.
Día de los Muertos may be one of the more attractive traditions to incorporate into mainstream American culture. The latest episode of the NBC drama “Grimm” focused on the legend of La Llorona, but also featured the holiday. Many people conflate Halloween and Day of the Dead, painting their faces into sugar skull designs as part of their costume. Let’s welcome the fact that diverse people are interested in the celebration, but while we are enjoying the festivities let’s remind people of the true significance of the holiday.
It is a deeply spiritual and symbolic holiday, a time to celebrate the lives of the departed, relive memories and remember that death is a part of life — but it doesn’t have to be scary.
Y con eso, ¡un feliz día de los muertos para todos!