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Day of the Dead

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noun
an annual celebration to honor the spirits of the dead, observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries on November 1 and 2, concurrently with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

MORE ABOUT DAY OF THE DEAD

What is Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead is the English name for Día de los Muertos, a festival in celebration and honor of the souls of the dead. It is primarily celebrated in Mexico and among people with Mexican heritage, as well as in some other Central and South American countries.

Both names are used for the holiday in English.

Day of the Dead is observed as a day to honor deceased family members and loved ones by “welcoming them back” through various customs, including making dedicated altars, laying out special food offerings, and visiting their graves.

Though the focus of the festival can be somber, it is typically observed in festive and celebratory ways, including with parades in which the souls of the dead are said to take part.

The festival is especially associated with decorative skulls, candies known as sugar skulls, and displays of orange marigold flowers.

Day of the Dead is sometimes associated with Halloween due to its proximity to the day and the similarity of some of the traditions, but it is a distinct and separate holiday. However, both celebrations share some roots and traditions with the Christian holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which Day of the Dead coincides with.

When is Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead is observed each year on November 1 and 2.

More information and context on Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead originated in Mexico. Its ultimate origins are debated, but many of its traditions are thought to be based on Indigenous customs, including those of the Aztecs and Toltecs. The lighthearted tone of the festival is thought to derive from the fact that mourning practices in such cultures have traditionally been less somber due to beliefs that souls of the dead remain among the living. Some of the customs are often traced to influences from Christian European colonizers and missionaries, notably the placing of the festival to coincide with the Christian holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Day of the Dead?

How is Day of the Dead used in real life?

Day of the Dead is primarily celebrated in Mexico and by people with Mexican heritage, but it is also observed in many places throughout Central and South America. Awareness of and interest in the holiday outside of these places has grown in recent years, and symbols associated with holiday, especially decorative skulls, have become popular.

 

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Day of the Dead takes place over two days.

How to use Day of the Dead in a sentence

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