Halloween, celebrated annually on October 31, is one of the world’s oldest holidays. Although it’s derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals, Halloween is still widely celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe. In countries such as Ireland, Canada and the United States, traditions include costume parties, trick-or-treating, pranks and games. Versions of the holiday are celebrated elsewhere, too. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—honors deceased loved ones and ancestors.
In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, All Souls’ Day, which takes place on November 2, is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31. The celebration is designed to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on Halloween. Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, and fresh water. Often, a wash basin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast.
Candles and incense are burned to help the deceased find the way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of their departed family members. This can include snipping weeds, making repairs, and painting. The grave is then decorated with flowers, wreaths, or paper streamers. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some gatherings even include tequila and a mariachi band.