Why I Celebrate both Halloween and Día de los Muertos

I love fall!

Fall season transports me back to the times of struggle and change in my life, either because of my experiences migrating to the U.S. or because of my loved ones who have left this earth. The Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, which I celebrate, takes place during fall. It is the time when I reflect on my grandmother’s death; also, my grandmother’s birthday was on October 4th. My father-in-law passed away on October 25th. It also reminds me of when I first started attending school in the U.S. For me, fall is the most reflective and emotional season of the year.

In Mexico, fall is also a time of reflection, along with prayer and rituals. It is a very solemn time.

For me, migrating to the U.S. in my early teens was such a cultural clash; especially during autumn season. In the U.S., fall season has a different meaning. Here, autumn is synonymous with plenty, ripening, harvest, abundance. Hence, harvest festivals, Halloween, and Thanksgiving Day. In Mexico, it’s quite the opposite. Fall is a season of change; it reminds us of decay, decline, old age, and death.

A Día de los Muertos altar.

As a new teenager, I had to navigate these two different worlds: “should I celebrate Día de los Muertos from my native Mexico and think about the past and all the ones who have gone before me? Or should I celebrate the traditions of my new country and the place where I am presently living?”

Such a dilemma!

I have been struggling with this decision for more than two decades.

After much reflection, I finally made the decision to celebrate both holidays: Halloween and Día de los Muertos.

I don’t have to choose one over the other. After all, I was raised part of my life in Mexico and part of my life in the U.S. and thus learned to embrace both cultures.

I like to celebrate Día de los Muertos because it is important to think about the past and reflect on our loved ones who left us and the lives they’ve lived; it helps us to cope better with death. At the same time, having lived in the U.S. for quite some time has helped me to recognize that this season of fall is also a time of harvest. This is the reason why we engage in activities such as apple picking, attending pumpkin patches, attending Pow Wows or Native American festivals. Fall also symbolizes ripening and abundance; Thanksgiving Day reminds us of that.

Attending a pumpkin patch during the fall season is a common tradition in the U.S.

Apple picking is another fall tradition in the U.S.

I myself have grown fond of attending pumpkin patches, apple picking, Halloween celebrations, and trick-or-treating. I love dressing up for Halloween, carving pumpkins, lighting bonfires, and going door to door asking for candy.

In the U.S. Halloween is a beloved fall tradition.

Visiting corn mazes in the fall is another fun tradition in the U.S.

I don’t feel guilty or ashamed about choosing one holiday over the other.

I now see fall or autumn as a season of change; a time of harvest and abundance, and also a season to take the time to reflect and pray for those who are no longer with us, a time to surrender and letting go.

Happy Halloween to all who celebrate it!

Golden, yellow autumn tree.

Orange autumn tree.

© Lizzeth Montejano and Aculturame, 2012-2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lizzeth Montejano and Aculturame with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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There are 4 comments

  1. Bama

    I have to admit, although I knew that Mexicans celebrate Día de los Muertos, it wasn’t until I watched the movie Coco when I began to understand the cultural significance of this festival. I like how in many different cultures across the globe, death is in a way ‘celebrated’. It’s a part of life, so one might as well incorporate it in his/her culture in a ‘delightful’ way.

    1. La Potosina

      I agree with you Bama. I like learning about how other countries and cultures view death. I know sometimes this subject is a taboo, but the more we learn about each other’s culture the better we’ll be able to understand each other. Mexicans and other Latin Americans see death as a part of life and when a person passes, he or she moves onto a different stage of life.

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