The Days of the Dead are celebrated in many Latin American countries but nowhere to the extent they are in Mexico. The traditions surrounding the Mexican Day of the Dead, its history throughout the past thousands of years, and its meaning for us today are complex and worthy of many hours of study and discussion. El Día de los Muertos (also referred to as el dia de muertos, dias de los muertos, and todos santos) in Mexico is a joyous and sacred time, a time to welcome the souls of the dead; it is a celebration in which the living and the dead are joined if even for a short while. In some ways it is a triumph over death and therefore becomes a celebration of life. Deceased loved ones are given back to families and friends if only for a brief time. If in Mexico at the beginning of November, you will not be able to escape the festivities as it is a national holiday.
Although the Day of the Dead in Mexico has a public aspect, at the community level it is essentially a private or family feast. The core of the celebration is within the family home. The departed children, los angelitos, are remembered on November first while November second focuses on the departed adults. There is nothing somber or macabre about the event. The dead come as spirits from another world to be with their living relatives and to visit in their homes. They do not come to scare or haunt as we believe Halloween spirits do. When children in the United States are shouting “trick or treat” and trying to terrify each other, Mexican children are probably at home helping with the many preparations for the day