While similar in tradition and time of year, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not actually the same holiday as Halloween. While Halloween is about ghouls and horror, Día de los Muertos views spirits much differently. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday meant to honor ancestors and celebrate the afterlife. Families gather together to partake in ancient, sacred traditions to remember those who go before them. However, the holiday is not a somber one. People artistically paint their faces to look like skulls and don vibrant outfits, and it is common to attach noisemakers to oneself.
Families will build altars to their passed on loved ones in their homes or in cemeteries to welcome the spirits of the dead back to the world of the living. These altars are often laden with offerings of food and water, family photos and if the spirit died as a child, toys. They are often decorated with Marigold flowers and host a candle for every member that the family is remembering. The Calavera Cantina, is a common motif for Día de los Muertos. Originally, a calavera or “skull” was a brief, funny epitaph from a tombstone used to make fun of the living. Mexican political cartoonist Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany the poems, which was eventually redesigned and popularized by Diego Ramirez. Now, wherever there is Día de los Muertos, the Calavera Cantina is there too.
The holiday culminates with a parade featuring people in their traditional costumes to honor the dead. While there are many parades all around Mexico, the largest one by far is in Mexico City.