Halloween or Day of the Dead? The origin and differences between both traditions

Mexico celebrates, at the beginning of November, the Day of the Dead, while countries, such as the United States, do the same with the Halloween festivities, at the end of October. Although both traditions are on close dates, each one has different meanings.

Due to their emotional meaning, both Día de Muertos and Halloween are traditions that have a high level of recognition worldwide, which is why, in many cases, such as in Mexico, they have chosen to celebrate both festivities.

When is Day of the Dead and Halloween celebrated?

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2; while in the United States, Halloween is celebrated one day earlier, on October 31.

Due to the closeness of the dates, many people tend to think that it is the same celebration, but it is not.

What are the differences between Day of the Dead and Halloween?

Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, in the indigenous vision, implies the transitory return of the souls of the deceased, who return home, to the world of the living, to live with their relatives and to be nourished by the essence of the food that is offered to them in the altars placed in their honor.

  • Offerings are placed in houses with photographs of loved ones who have passed away, as well as their favorite foods.
  • People go to cemeteries to chat and accompany their dead relatives.
  • The tombs are decorated with cempasúchil flowers and candles.
  • The animal linked to the Day of the Dead is the Xoloitzcuintle, a breed of dog that supposedly helps the dead to travel the path to the Mictlán (underworld).

Its origin is located in the harmony between the celebration of Catholic religious rituals, brought by the Spanish during the Conquest of Mexico, and the commemoration of the Day of the Dead, which the indigenous people carried out since pre-Hispanic times.


According to the American network BBC, 18th- century historians linked the origin of Halloween to an ancient pagan festival: a Celtic ritual called Samhain (which lasted three days and began on October 31), which celebrated the end of summer and the arrival of the short and cold days of autumn.

  • Houses are decorated with scary or terrifying items.
  • Children dress up as their favorite horror characters and trick-or-treat in the streets.
  • Ghost – shaped cookies are baked, and pumpkin pies and caramel apples are made.
  • The representative animal of Halloween is the black cat, since demons and witches were believed to adopt this reincarnated form.

Despite what is thought, the tradition of Halloween is not merely American, but British. Its name comes from the English phrase “All Hallows’ Eve”, which in Spanish means the “Eve of all saints”.

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