Todays Stories

Day of the Dead in Mexico: History, Origins, and Reason for Celebrating November 1 and 2

IIn 2008, UNESCO announced that day of the dead Ceremonial is an intangible cultural heritage of mankind, but what exactly is this holiday?

The origins of this symbolic Mexican holiday go back to pre-Hispanic, that is, before the Spanish conquest of the territory.

Death cult was one of the basic elements of this culture, and this celebration is part of that.

When someone died in said pre-Hispanic culture, they were buried in ‘petat’ (a type of woven carpet) and their relatives gathered at a party to guide them on their journey to ‘Michelan’ (place of eternal rest). One form of offering was to place food near the body.

The origin of the Day of the Dead in Mexico

This tradition has its origins in a confluence between the celebration of Catholic religious rites brought by the Spaniards and the commemoration of the Day of the Dead, which the indigenous peoples had been celebrating since before their arrival.

These indigenous people transferred the veneration of their dead to the Christian calendar, which coincided with the end of the agricultural cycle for corn, Mexico’s main food crop.

Death in this ceremonial becomes a cause for celebration because it represents a living presence rather than an absence.

Every year families arrange all kinds of offerings and altars for their dead and decorate these altars with flowers, skulls, pan de muerto, and incense.

Flowers have a major role, as they are positioned to facilitate the return of souls to Earth. The scattering of ‘cempasuchil’ petals and the placing of candles is intended to chart the path the spirits will take to reach their destination.

Why is the Day of the Dead celebrated on the 1st of November?

The Day of the Dead is celebrated on 1 and 2 November as the holiday is divided into two categories.

Following the Catholic calendar, November 1st is All Saints’ Day and this date is dedicated to deceased children.

Meanwhile, the 2nd of November honors the memory of the departed believers, that is, adults who are no longer with us.

This celebration extends throughout Mexico, but with small differences and idiosyncrasies depending on the region.


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