Although there are some similarities between the Day of the Dead and Halloween, as they are syncretic rituals whose coincidence lies in the Christian and Catholic celebration of the faithful departed, besides the fact that the dates of celebration coincide, there are marked differences between the two.
To begin with, the difference lies in the fact that they have different cultural and geographical origins: Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition of pre-Hispanic origin that is commemorated on November 1 and 2, while Halloween is celebrated on October 31 and has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. But let's take a look at their differences.
Day of the Dead
The origins of the Mexican tradition predate the arrival of the Spaniards, who had a unitary conception of the soul, a conception that prevented them from understanding that the indigenous people attributed to each several soul entities and that each one of them had a different destiny at death.
In Mexico, the indigenous cultures conceived death as a dialectic unity: the life-death binomial, which made death coexist in all the manifestations of their culture. The fact that its symbol or glyph appeared everywhere, that it was invoked at all times and that it was represented in a single figure, is what has kept its celebration alive in time.
One of the main characteristics of the Mexican tradition is the altar of the dead. In its origins, the central point of the cult of the dead was the belief that the souls of the dead return from the underworld.
In the indigenous celebrations, they used to place altars with offerings to remember the dead, where the heads of the sacrificed captives were offered to the gods. These altars, called tzompantli, consisted of rows of skulls threaded through perforations made in the parietal walls, which symbolized death and rebirth.
The Spaniards, in an attempt to convert the ancient Mexicans, made the feast of the dead of the indigenous people coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Today, the celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico is the result of the religious syncretism of these two cultures.
The celebration usually takes place at the end of October (25-30) and the beginning of November (1-3). The starting date of these celebrations varies according to the traditions or customs of each region of the country.
Although nowadays it is a costume party, where children and adults collect and eat large amounts of candy, the origins of Halloween, which takes place on the last day of October, are not so joyful and its roots come from an ancient Celtic festival more than 3,000 years ago.
Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow's Eve, also known as Samhain ("Summer's End" in Old Irish) Halloween. The pagan festival was celebrated in Ireland on October 31, when the harvest season came to an end and the "Celtic New Year" began.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the celebration marks the day before the Western Christian feast of All Saints and initiates the Allhallowtide season, which lasts three days and concludes with All Saints' Day.
During the Samhain festival, it was believed that the souls of those who had died revisited their homes, and it was also believed that those who had died during the year traveled to the other world. People would light bonfires in the hills to rekindle their home fires during the winter to ward off evil spirits, and sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts believed to be present.
It was in this way that beings such as witches, goblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day. The period was also thought to be favorable for divination in matters such as marriage, health, and death. The holiday arrived as such in the United States and Canada in 1840, through Irish immigrants, but did not begin to be celebrated on a massive scale until 1921, when the first Halloween parade was held in Minnesota.
Thus, the mystical rituals of earlier times evolved into more lighthearted fun and games. Thus it became one of the main holidays in the Anglo-Saxon world: United States, Canada, Ireland, and United Kingdom, especially among children.