Mexico’s Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, at first glance sounds the same as Halloween or All Hollows’ Eve in the United States, but in fact, they’re quite different – just as the two cultures who celebrate these holidays have fundamentally different views about death.

Day of the Dead in Mexico celebrates the life and death of their deceased loved ones in a spirit of joy, fellowship, and humor (reciting “calaveritas,” or little skulls, which are short, satirical poems about them). Americans view Halloween as a more mischievous celebration about the darker side of death. Both do believe, however, that the boundary between the living and the dead is blurred on these holidays for intercommunication.

Differences and Similarities between Halloween and Dia de los Muertos


Dia de los Muertos


  • *Celebrated on October 31st.
  • *Origins in the old Irish, Gaelic  Samhain (meaning summer’s end), a time to store food supplies for the cold months ahead.
  • *Celebrates the end of summer and the coming of winter.
  • *Harmful spirits warded off by frightening costumes and masks.
  • *Common symbol: the jack-o-lantern.
  • *Images of evil, the occult, magic, and monsters.
  • * Coincides with the Christian All Saint’s Day on November 1st.
  • *Celebrated on November 1st & 2nd.
  • *Origins in the Aztec festival dedicated to goddess Mictecacihuatl, Lady of the Dead.
  • *Celebrates the life and death of ancestors, friends, and family.
  • *Encourages visits from spirits of those who have died and celebrates their memory.
  • *Common symbol: the skull.
  • Images of cheerfully decorated grave sites and home altars with flowers and traditional food.
  • *Coincides with the Catholic All Soul’s    Day on November 2nd.
Day of the Dead Celebrations in Mexico

Consider taking part in this delightful Mexico tradition, and celebrate the lives of your dearly departed on a vacation in the Yucatan Peninsula. Celebrations begin the last week in October through the early days of November. The official Day of the Dead holiday for children is recognized on November 1st; for adults, on November 2nd.

Interpretations of Dia de los Muertos vary in different Mexico states. In the state of Yucatan, it’s called Hanal Pix’an, a Mayan version of the Day of the Dead, which means “feast for the souls.” Still, the basic theme throughout Mexico is the same: the dead are welcomed back into their homes via an offering (“ofrenda”) of traditional foods such as bread of the dead (“pan de muerto”), celebratory flowers such as marigolds (“flor de cempasuchitl” also called “flor de muerto”), and ornaments; by visiting and decorating their grave sites; and by dancing, singing, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company.


Where to Celebrate

In Cancun and the Riviera Maya, the Day of the Dead celebrations are visible all over town at restaurants, bars, and hotels, but one very special celebration takes place at Xcaret. Their annual Life and Death Mexican Traditions Festival, features traditional variations in Mexico’s regional Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

On October 30th through November 2nd, from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 pm., Xcaret shares the culture, history, food, music, dance, and religious ceremony given for the dearly departed.

Enjoy this traditional Mexican holiday at the end of October and early November with a visit to Cancun or the Riviera Maya. Join in the Day of the Dead festivities with colorful decorations, costumes, tasty treats, and music to wake the dead!


About the Author

christina Christina Famiglietti is a professional writer and editor with experience in various industries. Her most recent passion is the Mexican Caribbean, where she lives and is inspired to write about her beloved Mexico — its nature, culture, travel, and tourism.

Writter Bio


Is an American expat who has been living in Cancun, Mexico since 2001. A mother, singer, salsa dancer and now writer and community manager, she has worked in many different industries but is currently enjoying exploring the Yucatan Peninsula and sharing her expertise and experience with readers around the world. Follow Kristin on Twitter


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