13 Ways Halloween is Different From Day of the Dead
What’s the difference between Halloween and Day of the Dead? The similarities between Halloween and Day of the Dead are undeniable.
People love these holidays for their decorations, costumes, traditions, food, and honoring the departed.
If you’re learning Spanish or planning a trip to a Hispanic culture, it’s the perfect opportunity to understand the differences and similarities between Halloween and Day of the Dead.
Keep reading to compare and contrast Halloween and Day of the Dead, two fascinating and fun holidays!
13 Ways Halloween Differs From Day of the Dead
Although Halloween and Day of the Dead have some things in common, they also differ in several key ways.
1. Different Histories
Halloween is also known as “Samhain” and has Celtic roots. It started in Scotland, Ireland, and on the Isle of Man. Halloween was believed to be the day when the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest and a good time to communicate to the beyond.
Day of the Dead, on the other hand, is Dia de Muertos, a Mexican holiday. This holiday is about gathering with family to honor and remember those who have passed away. UNESCO officially made Day of the Dead part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.
2. Different Dates
Halloween is on October 31; that night, the ghosts of the departed come back to earth.
El Día de los Inocentes (All Saints’ Day) is celebrated on November 1st, while November 2nd is also known as All Souls Day or Day of the Dead.
Many countries in Latin America take time off from October 31st to November 2nd.
Many countries have adopted their own Halloween practices. Many people light bonfires and wear costumes. It’s also common to go trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, and have big parties.
Day of the Dead, on the other hand, is Mexican at its core. Many even call it Mexican Halloween. During the holiday, it’s traditional to get together with family and welcome back the souls of relatives.
People cook dishes for the departed and hang up a picture of the deceased loved one so that they can cross over to the land of the living.
4. Different Activities
On Halloween, kids put on costumes and go trick-or-treating with friends and family. People walk through frightening haunted houses. Because death can be scary, they like to spook people out.
For Day of the Dead, people love to put on face paint like skulls and have colorful parades with Mexican music. It’s about honoring and remembering the dead. During Día de los Muertos, people light candles and incense to cleanse the spaces and connect to the dead.
5. Different Symbols
It’s interesting to compare and contrast Halloween and Day of the Dead. The key symbols of Day of the Dead are skulls, skeletons, and the famous ofrenda (offering) full of pictures, flowers, candles, and anything that the departed loved ones liked. The more colorful the ofrenda (offering) and food, the better.
Halloween’s icons are spooky objects such as spiders, bats, black cats, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and zombies. It’s a dark holiday where people get a kick out of scaring each other and having fun.
6. Different Ways of Honoring
Halloween and Day of the Dead honor the departed in different ways. Day of the Dead is about remembering our ancestors. In some parts of Latin America, November 1 (All Saints Day) is the main event. People go to the graveyards to leave flowers, tell stories, sing songs, have a drink, and share a meal with their dead.
In contrast, Halloween is less associated with rituals and more about acknowledging and respecting the power of death.
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7. Different Spiritual Traditions
Halloween is a powerful time of year where we ponder upon the significance of life, death, and rebirth. It isn’t just about spooky costumes, carving pumpkins, or eating candy; it’s also about releasing negative energy, welcoming the unknown, and connecting to your intuition in everyday life.
The spiritual roots of Day of the Dead are associated with prayer and asking our spirit guides for support and protection. The Day of the Dead in Mexico has its roots in the Aztec festival for the Goddess Mictecacihuatl, also known as the Lady of the Dead.
8. Different Geography
Halloween is typically celebrated in Ireland, the United States, and Canada, among other countries. Due to Westernization, more countries in Latin America are celebrating Halloween.
Although Day of the Dead originated in Mexico, it is becoming more popular in other Latin American countries. In Guatemala, November 1st is a major holiday called All Saints Day where people fly giant kites, eat fiambre (a traditional Guatemalan dish), and get together with family to honor the departed.
In both the U.S and Mexico, Halloween and Day of the Dead are increasingly celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd.
9. Different Costumes and Decorations
Both festivities include elaborate food, decorations, visuals, and costumes. People of all ages love to dress up and paint their faces and have parades and celebrations. These are celebrations of death—and of life!
The Day of the Dead ofrenda should be colorful, joyful, and welcoming so that the spirits feel comfortable visiting.
Halloween is about finding spooky or goofy outfits and filling the house with scary decorations.
10. Different Foods
Another difference between Halloween and Day of the Dead is the food. During Day of the Dead, it’s traditional to eat pan de muertos (bread of the dead), tamales, roasted chicken, candled pumpkins, hot chocolate, and the favorite food of the departed loved ones.
On Halloween, it’s common to eat spooky cookies, pumpkin pie, all kinds of candy, caramel apples, and caramel corn.
11. Different Colors
When you compare and contrast Halloween with Day of the Dead, it’s clear that Day of the Dead is colorful, whereas Halloween’s main colors are black and orange. They both incorporate pops of color with bright purple, green, yellow, and red.
12. Different Religious Significance
Another difference between Halloween and Day of the Dead is their religious roots. While both have influences from Catholicism and Christianity, the origins of the Day of the Dead come from the ancient Aztec civilization. According to the Aztecs, the final resting place is called the Land of the Dead.
Halloween was initially religious at its core, but the celebration has become more informal and secular.
13. Different Stories
As you can see, when you compare and contrast Halloween with Day of the Dead, you see that these two holidays are different at their core, despite certain similarities. They both provide a unique opportunity to share fun stories, honor the dead, tell tales, play music, and celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us. Both holidays are incredibly fun and a wonderful way to connect to our roots.
Speak the Language of Latin America
Next time you celebrate these colorful holidays, try to identify their similarities and differences.
Spanish is not only useful to speak when you travel but also in the U.S.! In the United States alone, approximately 53 million people speak Spanish. The U.S. is currently the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US who speak Spanish in their homes.
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