In the United States, Halloween (All Hallows' Eve) is celebrated on October 31st, the eve of All Saints' Day. The observance became mingled with ancient Celtic beliefs that at this time of year the boundary between the mortal world and the spirit world is easily crossed.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is celebrated on November 2nd, which is All Souls' Day in the Catholic calendar. The Mexican observance draws on Pre-Hispanic beliefs that the departed return to visit each year.
So, the two holidays really are quite similar in their origins. However, while the Day of the Dead retained its traditions of visiting and decorating the graves of family members and setting out offerings for their return, Halloween became a purely secular celebration of costumes, trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns. It's always just a matter of time before the customs of "Big Brother to the North" seep down into Mexico, and now Halloween has become grafted onto Day of the Dead.
Yesterday, I walked into the Woolworths store that is just a few blocks from my Mexico City apartment, and I was greeted with a display of Halloween decorations and costumes for sale.
I also stopped at a neighborhood bakery and bought my first "pan de muerto" of the season.
"Pan de muerto" is a traditional Mexican bread that is only sold around this time of year. This particular bread however was filled with chocolate cream. Yummy! I'll have to go back for some more!
Finally, remember the days when the Christmas season did not begin until after Thanksgiving? Now the stores start putting out their Christmas merchandise right after Halloween. Well, it's just as bad in Mexico! At the Sear's department store near my apartment they have already put out the signs for this year's Christmas advertising campaign. It seems rather odd to me, but Sear's of Mexico always uses a phrase in English for their holiday advertisements. A couple years ago when the movie "Frozen" was so popular, their slogan was "Merry Frozen Christmas". This year it's "Merry Magic Christmas", and the signs are already hanging throughout the store!
So, my readers, whatever it is that you happen to be celebrating at this moment, I hope it's a happy one!