Learn about the holiday’s traditions and movies representing it

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where families come together to reunite with their dead loved ones with a three-day celebration. It is celebrated each year from October 31-November 2. October 31 is Halloween, November 1 is “El Día de los Inocentes”, or day of the children, and November 2 is All Souls Day.

Día de los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween.”

Many people mistake El Día de los Muertos as a Mexican version of Halloween. Both holidays do share some traditions such as dressing up in costumes and parades but Dia de los Muertos is when the border of the spiritual world and real-world dissolve. It is said that on midnight on October 31 the gates of heaven are opened, and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours.


Grave cleaning and decorating

The living family treats the decease as an honored guest and leaves their favorite foods and other offerings on their ofrendas (or graves) built in their homes. Ofrendas are usually decorated with candles, photos, and food. They are traditionally also decorated with bright marigolds called cempasuchil and calaveras, or sugar skulls.

Watch a video of what a traditional ofrenda looks like.

It is tradition to clean the grave and is respected by most. Perhaps to your surprise during Dia de los Muertos celebration graveyards have a very festive atmosphere due to the social gatherings.

Traditional foods

A traditional food during Dia de los Muertos is pan de muerto. Pan de Muerto is lightly orange-flavored sweet bread with a bonelike decoration on top and covered in sugar.

Catrina Parade

In Mexico City hundreds of people dress up as Catrina’s and participate in the Catrina parade. People paint their faces in the typical style of the Catrina skull adding colorful accents around the eyes and have flowers in their hair. Performers dance as a part of the parade in traditional clothes and masks or face paint. During these events vendors set of stalls with food and face painting.

Watch how Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico City.

Movies that represent Día de los Muertos


In the 2017 film “Coco,” a 12-year-old boy who loves music accidentally crosses over to the Land of the Dead where he gets help from his new musician great-great-grandfather to get back to his family among the living and to convince them that music isn’t bad.


This 1960 film takes place on the even of Día de los Muertos. A man fights hunger and poverty for his family when one day he is accosted by the Devil who offers him gold and land in exchange for the little food he had. “Macario” was the first Mexican movie to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.