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5 myths and common misconceptions about Day of The Dead

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Day of The Dead (or Dia de los Muertos) is celebrated in Mexico to honor the dead. On this day, families visit their loved ones’ graves honoring the departed, asking them to remember them from the great beyond.

The celebration is filled with so much fun—dances, music, food, decoration, and face painting are a big part of it. However, many people have attributed various myths to this practice by Mexicans, resulting in a lot of common misconceptions about the Day of The Dead.

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Celebrations are good, true. But, before celebrating, it is important to have detailed information about what is being celebrated and why. In this article, you will learn about 5 common misconceptions about Mexican Day of The Dead.

1. It is not Mexican Halloween

Mexican Day of the Dead is celebrated every 1 and 2 November, just right after America’s Halloween, celebrated every 31 October. Mexico started celebrating Dia de los Muertos in the 1800s.

The celebration on 1 November is to remember children who have passed away, while the one on 2 November is done to honor dead adults.

2. Day of The Dead is a celebration of life and not death

Another misconception about this celebration is that it is one of death. Ancient Mesoamericans believe that death is part of life’s journey and not the end of life. Their belief originates from the natural cycle.

The natural cycle is one whereby crops can grow from the same ground where another lies buried. So, the fiesta is done to honor dead relatives or ancestors, which is part of their culture.

And, like every other celebration, the Day of the Dead is celebrated with music and dance. To celebrate, Mexicans introduce “symbols of death to portray the ever-natural circle of life and death” that surrounds everyone.

They celebrate the day by painting their faces as sugar skulls, but now, people incorporate duality because sometimes females want the other side of their face to show their nice makeup. So, only half of their faces are sometimes painted.

According to National Geographic, “Dia de los Muertos celebrates death as a part of the human experience: Every living thing will eventually die. Every human being, no matter how beautiful or well-dressed, will eventually be exposed as nothing more than a skeleton and skull. The half-decorated calaveras recognize this duality.”

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3. It is not celebrated in all of Mexico

According to the assistant professor and research associate for the Center of Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, Isabel Montemayor, the celebration is not as common for places in northern Mexico compared with southern Mexico. In the south, states such as Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Veracruz celebrate the Day of the Dead.

4. It is not a cult

Another public misconception about the Day of the Dead is that it is a cult. However, it is not a cult. Of course, the day is celebrated with rituals, but this ritual has nothing to do with cults.

The rituals are Catholic-Christian intermixed with folk culture. The essential aspect of the celebration is going to mass. In one of the communities — Arocutín — where the Christian rituals take place, a church bell rings to call the souls and guide them back to the land of the living.

The people believe that the bell sound would help prevent the dead’s souls from getting lost. Although, each community has a different sound that they use to summon their dead. In some communities, people stay up all night, offering food and presents to their deceased.

5. The Day of The Dead celebration is not a sad one

While it is true that Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead to remember those who have passed away, the celebration is not a sad one. Instead, it is a loving one because people get to remember their loved ones who are no more.

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Photos from the Day of The Dead celebration 2021

Day of The Dead
Skull decorations are displayed at Tlacolula Market ahead of Day of the Dead on October 31, 2021, in Tlacolula, Mexico.
A woman dressed as La Catrina participates in a parade during the Day of The Dead festival in Guanajuato, Mexico, on 1 November 2021.
An aerial view of a figure of La Catrina made with 18,000 cempasúchil flowers, on display at the Church of Santa Prisca in Taxco, Mexico
Relatives spend the night next to the tomb of their loved one during Day of the Dead festivities at the the Arocutín cemetery in Michoacan state, Mexico, on November 1, 2021.

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