27 Oct Re-Ignite The Spark In “Day Of The Dead”
First, let’s set the record straight – although they both DO involve costumes, treats, skulls and, of course, “otherworldly spirits” – Halloween and Day of the Dead are NOT interchangeable or just one big days’ long autumnal holiday! (And, just to get a head start, Hanukah is not the “Jewish Christmas”…BUT, we’ll get to that one in a future post.)
And while they do share many similarities, most people had no idea exactly WHAT Día de los Muertos was about – UNTIL 2017 and the debut of Disney’s “Coco” animated feature. So thanks to a “kid’s movie” interest has actually been reawakened in this tradition and new generations exposed to this history dating back over 3000 YEARS!
Television station KSAT even did an in-depth exploration of this growing phenomenon. The academics they interviewed offered their insights:
“I think movies like ‘Coco’ and ‘Tree of Life’…are actually indications of something much deeper that’s happening…I see much more interesting horizons in terms of the way that this tradition has been reawakened in communities that didn’t celebrate it 50 years ago” ~ John Phillip Santos with UTSA Mestizo Cultural Studies Honors College
“Factors like the popularity of ‘Coco’ and the commercialization of the holiday have played a part in raising the profile of Día de Muertos in South Texas and across North America…Many ‘Coco’ fans found a deep connection to the film for various reasons and felt it was an authentic depiction of Mexican culture, art and music. It explained how Día de Muertos and Halloween are very different holidays, and how to honor loved ones after death without feeling scared. But at its heart, ‘Coco’ was about family and traditions built through generations of ancestors.” ~ Dr. Sonya Aleman, UTSA Associate Professor
Whereas Halloween is all about avoiding or scaring off the “spooky” and “goblins,” Day of the Dead takes the polar opposite approach and celebrates the return of loved ones with welcoming altars or ofrendas, festivities and tasty treats for the joyous reunions. It is literally a celebration of life NOT death!
And this difference is also reflected in the color spectrums traditionally associated with each holiday. Interestingly enough, where “Halloween colors” tend to revolve around orange (for the fall harvest) and black (duh, the departed spirits), the more “festive” nature of Day of the Dead involves a much more diverse color palette…each with a specific meaning that perfectly encapsulates the full scope of this celebration so beautifully explained by an online source:
- BLACK: Representing death in Day of the Dead tradition, black symbolizes the land of the dead. Black is not used as much as the other colors and is often seen primarily as a background color in Day of the Dead artwork.
- PURPLE: Possibly the most important Day of the Dead color. In the celebration, purple refers back to the Catholic calendar and signifies pain, suffering, grief and mourning. The families of the dead use purple to acknowledge their loss of loved ones.
- PINK: Symbolic of the celebratory roots in Day of the Dead, pink pays joyous tribute to the lives of the deceased and the return of the dead for reunions with family members. Often Day of the Dead skeletons (Calaveras) are painted with the color and wear pink dresses and suits.
- WHITE: Day of the Dead revelers use white to signify purity and renewal, as if the souls of the dead have been wiped clean. White also represents hope and is present in flowers at the altar and traditional paper decorations
- YELLOW & ORANGE: Marigolds (which come in both orange and yellow) are the “signature” flower in Day of the Dead celebrations. Marigold petals are sprinkled on a path to the altar, as their color and smell help guide the spirit’s home during the celebration. Orange also represents the sun and yellow simultaneously symbolizes the light and, ironically enough, death.
- RED: This one is pretty obvious, with the red signifying blood or the blood of life.Sounds like an exuberant, colorful, life-affirming celebration…with the unlikely name Day of the Dead! And aside from the upcoming Hindu New Year – Diwali – we can’t imagine a more appropriate holiday for a full spectrum of rainbow sparkling tributes to light our loved ones’ way home! With our Rapid Ship Promise, you’ll still have those special altar representations of “fire” in time for the holidays. However, should you have any questions about how you can re-ignite the “spark” in an upcoming Day of the Dead celebration, just reach out to us and we’ll help you light the way home!