History of the Day of the Dead

You may have noticed our new Skulls and Roses and Frida Kahlo ranges in stock, and their themes and motifs may have become more recognisable in the last few years. These designs may be bright, colourful, and fun, but we believe the best way to appreciate their true beauty is to know the history behind them. Día de los Muertos (Day of The Dead) is all too commonly mistaken for a Halloween event, but it has a rich and interesting history that goes far beyond decorations and costumes.

The Day of the Dead is a tradition celebrated yearly on the first two days of November, and originates primarily from rural Mexico, but is celebrated widely through Latinx culture. As far back as the Day of The Dead goes, it’s roots stem even deeper - being born from a combination of the Aztec belief that death is an intrinsic part of the life cycle and that the afterlife is a long journey which living relatives must offer food and tools to help the deceased to complete. This, in time, combined with the Catholic holidays “All Saints Day” and  “All Souls Day”, which were celebrated in medieval Spain by laying flowers and candles on the graves of loved ones to light the path to the afterlife - and these beliefs are the roots of the Day of the Dead.

The tradition revolves around the idea of celebrating and remembering the lives of loved ones that have passed on. This is done with festivals, food and parties as it is believed death is a natural progression of life and is something to be celebrated rather than be a sombre occasion. This also has an element of family reunion, as it is believed that the boundary between this life and the afterlife is let down for the duration of the celebration, so deceased loved ones my return to their families for this day only. Offerings of favourite foods and flowers are placed on graves, or on home alters known as “ofrendas”, to welcome the deceased as guests of honour.

The celebrations are recognisable by the emblems of skulls and skeletons adorned in bright colours and fine clothes, people will often wear skull masks and eat sugar candy moulded into the shape of skulls. The festivities have only grown bigger in recent years, with 2015’s James Bond film Spectre showing a Day of the Dead festival that inspired real events to be held in Mexico City the following year, and then in large cities in the U.S. the year after that. The Disney film, Coco has also had a huge impact on knowledge of this piece of Latinx heritage, the film following a young boy who gets lost in the afterlife on the Day of the Dead. This has spurred a new-found interest in the subject, introducing a young generation to the celebration, and making the symbols of the skull and skeleton a popular emblem.

Take a look at our Day of the Dead inspired collection - Skulls & Roses and see if you can see the connections to the traditions embedded in the designs. Our Frida Kahlo Collection is inspired by Mexicana and it's bold and bright colours are suitably celebratory too.

October 30, 2019 — Georges Whitstable Admin