Halloween is an important festival in Mexico and the people here celebrate it with full enthusiasm. The festival is celebrated throughout the country. However, there are some or other variations in the mode of celebration from one state to another. In Mexico, Halloween is celebrated as an extended holiday, which lasts for three days. The Day of the Dead begins with October 31 and ends on November 2. October 31 is celebrated as the Young Souls Day, November 1st is the All Saints Day and the last day i.e. November 2 is observed as the All Souls Day. Apart from these days, Mexicans observe October 27 as the Feast of the Holy Souls or Fiesta de las Santas Animas.
In Mexico, families start Halloween by cleaning the graves of their relatives. They use hoes, shovels and picks, to remove the weeds and completely clean the graves. They decorate the graves with pine needles and flowers. They even erect a temporary altar near the gravesite. Then, different kinds of foods, like beans, chilies, salt, tortillas, meat, fruit and sometimes even alcohol, are placed nearby. People speak to the departed souls and offer foods to them. In a way, they assure the dead that they are loved by their living relatives. Usually, the ceremonies last for several days, as each family has more than one grave to attend to.
Halloween is believed to be originated from pre-Hispanic Mexico, when Aztecs, Mayans and other indigenous people inhabited the country. People believe that on this day, the departed souls of their near and dear ones come to visit them. It is believed that the souls eat and drink with their living relatives. The popular notion attached with the festival is that loved ones never die and they come back, at least once in a year. During Halloween, Mexicans put on the costumes of ghouls, mummies, ghosts and skeletons and walk through the town, carrying an open coffin. The local vendors put oranges, flowers, fruits and candies into the coffin, as it passes their markets.
Another popular tradition followed during Halloween is that the families arrange altars, known as ofrendas, at their homes. They decorate the altars with flowers, bread, fruit and candy. Marigold is an important flower, which all of them use to decorate the altar. This is so because marigold is considered to have a long term association with death. The photos of the departed souls are placed therein. In the late afternoon, people lit the special candles, which burn throughout the night. Skulls are an indispensable part of the celebration and these can be seen laid on altars as well.
Sugar skulls are made for Halloween, which the children exchange among themselves. These sugar skulls stand for the gifts for the departed young souls of the children in the family. It is believed that the souls of children shall return to earth in the late afternoon on 31st October. Other skull dishes prepared for the festival are chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins and white chocolate skeletons. Another tradition of the festival is the Pan de Muertos or bread of the dead. Families assemble together and remember the departed souls. Then, they share the bread among themselves, as a mark of unity and love.
People also prepare Calabaza en Tacha or candied pumpkin on Halloween, by using cinnamon and brown sugar. This dish forms a special treat for the day. It is a custom among the people to light bonfires on this day. They also set off the firecrackers and hang lanterns on the trees. Apart from lighting the firecrackers, in some parts of Mexico, people strew a path of flower petals as well. It is believed that by doing all this, they are guiding the departed souls to home. Children carry lanterns and run through the streets. They ask for coins while passing the streets.