It's almost dressup time again, for you and your best friend! The Day of the Dead and Halloween are just a few weeks away. At first glance they seem a bit similar. Ever wonder what's different about them? We've got you covered.
While both Day of the Dead and Halloween have a mutual connection to the Catholic All Saints Day, and both celebrations include colorfully macabre costumes, death imagery, skeletons and treats, the origins and meanings of the Day of the Dead and Halloween are quite different. Here are a few.
1. DIFFERENT MEANINGS
Both the Day of the Dead and Halloween holidays have historical origins that have evolved over time.
Unlike Halloween, the main intent of the Day of the Dead is to celebrate the dead, a tradition that dates back to Aztec belief in an afterlife. The arrival of the Spainish and the introduction of the Catholic faith in the sixteenth century led to an intermingling of traditions, and so the festival was moved to coincide with All Souls Day and All Saints Day on Nov 1-2. Today it is a quintessential Mexican holiday known as Dia de Muertos, a time for people to honor their ancesters and loved ones who have passed away.
Halloween also has roots in All Saints Day. While it originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would wear costumes to ward off ghosts, in the eight century Pope Gregory III declared November 1 as a day to honor Saints, or All Saints Day. This day incorporated some of those Samhain ghost-fearing traditions, particularly on the night before which was known as All Hallows Eve and later became Halloween. Today Halloween is more about being afraid of the dead, but has also evolved into a general excuse for dressing up in costumes, partying and for kids to load up on candy via the tradition of going door to door trick or treating.
2. DIFFERENT SYMBOLS
The Day of the Day is most commonly symbolized by Sugar Skulls, which are made by a sugar-based mold and is a kind of sugar art, which dates back to the 17th century. Mexicans of the time has little money but plenty of sugar, and so Catholic friars taught them how to make sugar decorations. Sugar skulls represent a departed soul. The name of the departed was traditionally written on the skull's forehead, which was then placed on the home alter, or ofrenda, to honor the spirit and invite its return.
The carved pumpkin, or Jack O' Lantern, is the symbol of Halloween, and is a tradition brought to America by Irish immigrants. Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, it became traditional on All Hallows Eve for Irish to hollow out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets, then place lanterns in them to ward off evil spirts, including the evil Stingy Jack, a nasty drunk spirit who liked playing tricks on people. These were the original Jack O' Lanterns. When Irish immigrants came to America, they discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve, and so pumpkins became the Jack O' Lanterns, and All Hallows Eve became Halloween.
3. DIFFERENT COSTUMES
Popular costumes worn for Day of the Dead celebrations feature a variety of colorful takes on the skeleton theme. Girls might rock a complete skeleton-themed ensemble that includes a skeleton headpiece, dress and tights. Face and body paint themes also feature brightly creative riffs on skull designs.
Halloween on the other hand is more about trying to be scary, with monster masks of terrifying creatures oozing zombies, ghosts and vampires. But it is also common to see costumes about fantasy characters, film or comic book super-heroes and even politicians.
Fortunately you can wear our beautiful limited edition Day of the Dead Dog Collar and Bead Bracelets to either celebration :)
4. DIFFERENT FOODS
Food at Day of the Dead celebrations are, first of all, about sharing with the souls of the departed, and that includes stacking the alter with foods that were popular with the departed. This can also include Pad de muerto (bread of the dead), real sugar skull, tamales, and even beer and tequila.
Halloween is, first and foremost, about CANDY, particular for the children. Neighborhood homes stock up in anticipation of trick or treaters making the rounds looking for candy handouts. Halloween parties might also have candy, plus party food sometimes featuring a black and orange theme.
5. DIFFERENT ANIMALS
Made famous in the movie Coco, the Mexican hairless dog, or Xoloitzcuintle, were sacred to the Aztecs and is considered as the country’s native dog breed. They are traditionally believed to be a guide of the deceased as they navigate the underworld. As such you sometimes see hairless dogs at Day of the Dead celebrations sporting a skeleton body paint design.
The animal most commonly associated with Halloween is the black cat. In Medieval times in France and Spain black cats were considered to be bringers of bad luck, witchcraft and evil portents in general, particularly if they crossed your path in the moonlight. When Puritans came to America they brought along their fear of witchcraft, including black cats, and it became a practice to burn the cats (and sometimes witches too). This fear morphed into general legend of spookiness regarding black cats that has persisted to this day. Unfortunately, this superstition has meant black cats are least likely to be adopted from shelters.