Happy Day of the Dead!

Death is an element that is inextricably connected to our life. Every day we experience directly and indirectly the death, and for this reason it is interesting to look at how people in different parts of the world feel and look at it.

For example, if we consider this time of the year, we can see how the concept of the festivities linked to the dead can totally change across cultures from mourn to celebration, from sadness to joy.

In fact, most of these festivities focus on the sadness towards the dead, surrounded by a solemn atmosphere that create respect and fear as one can be cursed or spirited away by the spirits if shown any form of disrespect. And although in some cultures, like in Italy, the dead show some trait of generosity, bringing gifts to children, they still must be feared.

The Day of the Dead

But between all these ways of considering the dead, there is one that seems to look at it with a more positive look. We are talking about El Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican celebration, that mix elements of the original Cristian festivities with elements that come from Aztec culture.

While sharing the same origin, El Dia de los Muertos, shifted its focus towards a more joyful way to celebrate the dear ones that left us, through a colourful celebration, as people remember past fun facts or experiences, that involves family and friends while paying respect towards family members who passed away.


At the altars, called ofrenda, the dead are called back in the world of the living, not to be worshipped, but to be welcomed. In fact, usually this ofrenda is full of offering for the dead with things like food and water to help them after the long journey, family photos and a candle for each of the relative who is dead.

Marigolds are the flowers used during this celebration as it is believed that they can guide the wandering souls from and back to their place of rest, creating these wonderful roads made by the petals of the flowers.


To have a better look at this tradition, we suggest you to watch the recent Disney Pixar movie “Coco”. Coco is the story of a young boy named Miguel who desires to follow his dream going against his family, and who, after a series of events, ends in the afterlife where, through the help of his dead family members, he will understand the importance of the family and the support that he can find in it.

Coco deals with the topics of family, memories and acceptance, and while the last one is strictly linked to the storytelling needs of the film, the first two are elements strongly attached to this celebration, and are fully represented.

Coco truly captures the beauty and the essence of the Mexican culture, both in the development of his character and in the representation of this celebration: El Dia de los Muertos is a celebration for both living and dead people, a day when who is still alive celebrates the memory of the dead while parting and sharing happy moments with family and friends, while for the dead is the day they can come back to visit their family and party with them.

Every single little element is respected, from the representation of the preparations to celebrate, with the town and the cemetery fully decorated with candles, marigolds, adorned calaveras (skulls) and papel picado (ornamental paper hung in the streets), to the enthusiasm and respect towards the day the missing family members will come back home.

In Coco we can see the elements of this Mexican tradition, but what about your culture and traditions? How do you celebrate? But, most importantly, did you “spirited away” by the beauty of this festivity?