The Day of the Dead has a history older than Christmas
Let’s ballpark and say Jesus of Nazareth was born in the year 1 A.D. (despite the scholars who argue Jesus’ birthday was, confusingly, closer to 5 B.C.). While Mary and Joseph were bickering over baby names, Mesoamerican cultures like the Maya were already about 1,000 years deep into an annual festival of death and rebirth, honoring their departed ancestors and the gods of the great beyond. To many indigenous Americans, death was seen as a continuance of life; a shift from one phase of being to another, like a butterfly reborn from a caterpillar’s cocoon. This powerful connection between the living and the dead persists at the core of today’s Día de Muertos—known in English as “The Day of the Dead”—celebrated throughout much of Mexico and the Southwestern United States on November 1st and 2nd every year. If you believe there is more to life than meets the eye, follow along for Day of the Dead facts, one of the world’s most beautiful and supernatural celebrations. You won’t want to miss these gorgeous photos of Dia de los Muertos celebrations from around the world.
The “Day of the Dead” is really two days—but it used to be a month
The Spanish Conquistadors who stumbled upon the Aztec empire in the early 1500s would have witnessed some shocking funerary rites, but they wouldn’t have been so surprised if they knew these Day of the Dead facts. For one, the Aztecs made a month-long celebration of the cycle of life and death to coincide with the summer corn harvest; holding real human skulls in hand, they paid homage to dead friends and relatives along with the Queen of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl. The Spanish fought to convert the Native population to Catholicism—one reason why Día de Muertos is now celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively. Thankfully, many of the indigenous holiday traditions persist for at least a few days a year.