What Are the Origins of the Day of the Dead?

The day of the dead or Día de Muertos is an ever-evolving public holiday that traces its earliest roots to the Aztec people in what is now central Mexico. The Aztecs used skulls to honor the dead a millennium before the Day of the Dead Celebrations. Skulls, like those once placed on Aztec temples, remain a key symbol in a tradition that has continued for more than six centuries in the annual celebration to honor and commune with those who have passed away.

Once the Spaniards conquered the Aztec Empire in the 16e century, the Catholic Church moved Indigenous celebrations and rituals in honor of the dead throughout the year to Catholic dates commemorating All Saints and All Saints on November 1 and 2. Día de Muertos on November 2, indigenous Latin American traditions and symbols of honoring the dead merged with unofficial Catholic practices and notions of an afterlife. The same happened on November 1 to honor the deceased children.

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