Ormond Beach Restaurant Blog

How Is the Day of the Dead Different from Halloween?


Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is often confused for Halloween. While there are some similarities between the two, Mexican Halloween involves more than donning a costume and getting candy from your neighbors. Instead, Mexicans take the time to honor and remember deceased loved ones while celebrating life with their families. In this article, we’ll explore both holidays and help you get into the spirit of celebrations.

Dia de los Muertos

In Mexico, Halloween is not just about ghosts and goblins. Instead, the Day of the Dead is used to remember your loved ones who have passed on. While this sounds like a sad holiday, it really isn’t. Instead, it’s a celebration of life evidenced by parades and decorations.

The Day of the Dead starts on October 31, just like Halloween in the United States, but it is celebrated through November 2. On October 31 or All Saints Day, deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families in spirit. On November 1 or All Souls Day the spirit of adults also come down to celebrate life with people on Earth.

During this time, many families decorate their homes with flor de los muertos – a type of carnation full of bright orange and pink colors. They’ll also use candles and other bright decor along with photos of deceased family members. Many families will visit the graves of their loved ones and tell stories about them.

Celebrations are different in rural areas. The further away you are from a big city, the less likely you’ll find noisy parades and festivities. Nevertheless, most families will gather together to visit the cemetery, but they also take the time to decorate their home in remembrance of their loved ones.

Tamales & Enchiladas

If you’re familiar with Mexican culture, you won’t be surprised to hear that food plays an important role on Dia de los Muertos. Most families will have several loaves of a special type of sweet bread called pan de muerto. There may also be tamales and enchiladas. Often, families will make the food that was a favorite with the deceased family member. It’s just another way of honoring their memory and allowing their spirit to be part of the celebrations.


Halloween has its roots in pagan celebrations, but you will also find that it’s associated with Christian celebrations. In fact, Halloween literally means the night before All Hallow’s Day (better known as All Saints Day). As an ancient Celtic festival, it was known as Samhain. The Celtic celebrated the New Year on November 1 and believed that the boundaries between the world of the dead and the living were most transparent on this last day of the year.

The celebration of the dead intentionally coincides with the cycle of nature. After the final harvest is brought in, the trees shed their leaves, and many living things become dormant or hibernate. With the spread of Christianity, the festival was called All-Hallows, with Samhain being All-Hallow’s-Eve, which is now simply known as Halloween.

Modern celebrations involve dressing up in costumes and going from door to door to receive candy. Many families also enjoy decorating their houses inside and out with pumpkins and skulls. Some decorations are quite elaborate and designed to frighten and scare onlookers. Traditionally, younger children will start trick-or-treating before it is completely dark outside. There are also often Halloween parties through schools and libraries allowing children to dress up and have fun pretending to be someone else.


Halloween and Dia de los Muertos are alike in many ways. While Dia de los Muertos was originally a two-month celebration of the dead for the Aztec s, Halloween has also been changed from its original purpose. In Celtic times, Halloween was a time to celebrate the dead and their connection to the living – much like Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos is full of celebrations and colorful decorations even though it can be rather painful for the remaining family members to honor their dead. If you visit Mexico during this time of year, you will find the decorations to be similar, although you may notice the prevalence of the sugar skull.

These two holidays are both worth celebrating. Fortunately, both involve costumes, skeletons, decorations, graveyards, and death imagery. And while the pumpkins and candy might be missing from Dia de los Muertos, there is certainly no lack of good Mexican food.