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U.S.A. & Mexico: The Day of the Dead

The Day Of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)….in U.S.A., Mexico & Elsewhere:

While most non-believers regard death as the end, the Catholic Church recognizes that this is just a transition towards a future life:  be it heaven or hell.

The Day of the Dead is not a Catholic feast day, but a day that has special meaning for Catholics, especially for Mexicans and those of Mexican descent living in the U.S.  It takes place over two days:  November 1st and 2nd, coinciding with All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2).

This is an occasion when families gather together to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have died.  This is not a sad occasion…..this is a party of remembrance for those we miss, since we do not regard death as the end.

Day of the Dead Altars at home:

Those who celebrate the Day of the Dead will often make home altars with mementos of the departed:  photos, personal items and memorabilia associated with loved ones who have died.

The Day of the Dead in Cemeteries in Mexico & the U.S.:

Although often thought of as somber places, cemeteries are places of celebration on the Day of the Dead in Mexico, the U.S. and elsewhere.   In the U.S., with its large population of those of Mexican heritage, you will see families spreading out a picnic lunch at the graveside of loved ones.  Although this is not a Catholic feast day, it does underscore a basic Catholic Christian belief….that we will rise again some day and be with our relatives in heaven.  So those buried in the ground are not gone forever.

You’ll often see special objects placed on the graves…perhaps a treasured toy of a child, a favorite dish that will be eaten there, photographs of family events….anything that brings back pleasant memories of when that person was alive on earth.

The Celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico:

In Mexico, in addition to home altars and celebrations at cemeteries, there are parades in some of the major cities: women in colorful dresses walk on the streets, their skeleton-painted faces shadowed by giant ornamental hats and

The Day of the Dead is not the “Mexican Halloween”

Although sometimes mistaken to be the same as Halloween, the Day of the Dead has nothing to do with the traditional Halloween customs that are well-known in the USA and other parts of the world. It is true that in some of the more contemporary areas of Mexico nowadays, children may go door-to-door asking for calaveritas (small skulls), expecting candy or fruit, but that is as far as it goes.  Decorating houses with skulls and cobwebs, etc. is definitely not a common practice in Mexico.

Although the Day of the Dead is not strictly a religious feast or festival, we have listed it on our calendar page.


Note:  Many evangelicals have strong objections to this celebration, but their objections are based on a false idea of what the day represents.  It is not a pagan ritual, nor do we, as Catholic Christians, worship the dead or any artifacts associated with them.