The History of the Day of the Dead

Miranda Figueroa, Staff Writer

The cold air creeps up your arms slowly and your body temperature starts becoming cold. The wind blows past your hair leaving you with a shiver running through your body. The wind whispers in your ear slowly and coldly. Was that your family member thanking you for the altar you set up for them?

Thinking that there is a connection between the Day of the Dead and Halloween is a common mistake made amongst many people, according to The Conversation. It is more than just a day to celebrate those who have passed away. It originates from an Aztec celebration. This tradition traces back many years, but the practice originates from when Spanish conquistadors came to Mexico and found indigineous people which they called the Aztecs (

According to Learn Religion, the holiday celebrates the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl, who is said to have been sacrificed as a baby. After being sacrificed, she was made the mate for Miclantecuhtl, who became her husband through marriage. Together, they both are in charge of a variety of souls. The different souls they are in charge of working with are: the souls living in the underworld, the souls that had normal deaths, the souls with heroic deaths, and the souls with non-heroic deaths (

A very popular myth is that they both collected bones, so that they could take them to the land of the living and a new race could be created. This was Mictecacihuatl and Miclantecuhtl’s intentions, but because there are so many races, it is believed by the Aztecs that they dropped many bones before getting to the land of the living and the bones were mixed up. This caused there to be so many different races created in the land of the living (

Because of the myth about the bones being collected, many people believe there is a correlation to the image of Mictecacihuatl. She has flayed skin and a gaping, skeletal jaw which is meant to represent death and resurrection. This is how it correlates to her and her husband picking up bones from the dead, to give a new life with the bones left behind to new races created in the land of the living (

It is customary that on the Day of the Dead, pictures of one’s loved one are set out and are accompanied by their favorite snacks and foods from when they were living. In addition, the common flower, called Cempasuchil, is used to decorate because the myth says that it releases a smell that wakes up those who have died. This is quite interesting because it just happens to be a flower that blooms in the fall (

“A little myth I like to hear is that after a soul eats and enjoys the food we put out for them, the food set out will then no longer have a flavor or smell to it,” said Senior Shamira Hernandez.

A common practice by the Aztecs was to make an altar for those who had passed and decorate it to match who the person was and what they liked. In addition, when they did rituals, they used real human bones as instruments to play music for their loved ones. This was a way they invited those who had passed away to interact with them once again (

“I love the idea of being able to invite back my family members who have passed away to come spend time with the family spiritually. It’s a way that the family comes together and celebrates and thinks back on special moments with those family members,” said Senior Olivia Mendez.

The Day of the Dead has a deeper meaning than just celebrating ghosts like Halloween. Because Halloween is viewed as a holiday for ghosts and spooky stories, people like to pair it with the Day of the Dead. However, this holiday is a celebration of ones ancestors and gives an explanation as to why there are so many races in the world.