Though Halloween and Day of the Dead have some things in common, the differences between the two holidays and the way they're celebrated show the great difference between the way death was viewed by the people of ancient Mesoamerica and Europeans. Though both of these holidays have combined with Catholicism and changed over time, the roots of each show a vast gulf between their conception of death. Celebrations of Halloween come from the idea that the dead are to be feared; children would dress up in costumes as a protection against them, and the Jack-O-Lantern was thought to ward away evil spirits. In Day of the Dead celebrations, however, the spirits of dead loved ones are welcomed into the home, graves are decorated, and entire families spend the night in the cemetery to honor and remember their dearly departed. Death is portrayed as something natural, normal, sometimes mocked, but kept close and familiar.
My family is bi-cultural: I am Canadian and my husband is Mexican. My two children were born in Mexico and have lived all their lives here. I grew up celebrating Halloween, and I have fond memories of dressing in costume, trick-or-treating, and carving pumpkins. I enjoy sharing those traditions with my children, but I far prefer the symbolism and meaning behind Day of the Dead. In our house we celebrate both holidays to some extent, but the priority is given to Day of the Dead as a time to remember those who have passed on before us, and to honor their memory.
How about you? Do you celebrate Day of the Dead or Halloween? Answer our poll and tell us your opinion in the comments section below.