Day of the Dead is a holiday that is celebrated throughout Latin America, definitely in Mexico, but all the way down to Patagonia (southern Argentina and Chile), Bolivia, Guatemala–all these countries celebrate this festival, according to Joanna Onorato, outreach coordinator of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center which celebrated the event Moab style on Sunday, Oct. 28.
Typically it’s a day where the family goes to the cemetery and they clean the graves of their loved ones and they decorate the graves with a lot of marigolds and some of that person’s favorite things, because the belief is this is the day the spirit will come back and celebrate with their family. So, it’s a time to be with family and feel the presence of lost loved ones; it’s a mixture of sadness and joy.
There are holidays similar to the Day of the Dead all throughout the world. In Japan they have the Obon Festival. In Nepal, they have the Festival of Cows, which is where they have a parade of cows and family members are leading the spirits back. In Korea, there is a similar festival, said Onorato.
In foreign countries, festivals similar to the Day of the Dead are often celebrated at different times of the year. Day of the Dead in the Americas is on Nov. 1 and 2–All Saints Day and All Souls Day. It’s primarily a Catholic tradition, but Day of the Dead as it’s celebrated now, is really a combination of cultures. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs had their own celebrations; celebrating the dead and asking the spirits for help with the harvest. When the conquistadors came, they brought their own traditions: Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls Day. Day of the Dead as celebrated today is a blend of Indigenous traditions mixed with European traditions.
“Day of the Dead is a lot of fun. It’s a great day. It’s great to celebrate with the community,” said Onorato.