Using ‘Day of the Dead’ for your Halloween theme is ignorant and offensive to Latin American culture
It’s not fun, it’s belittling
As Halloween gets closer, you may have noticed some decorations hung up on the George Elliot windows, costumes and knickknacks being sold all over the place, and the cute little pumpkin displays in Crossland’s. It seems Halloween spirit has even reached this side of the pond, which is a really good thing if you consider all the fun aspects of the holiday.
The candy, the partying, the pun-tastic costumes, scary movies and throw-back kids' Halloween movies, and lastly, my all-time favorite activity: pumpkin carving. The holiday is a perfect combination of fun, tradition, and childhood memories being brought back to life. It’s also a great excuse to eat a lot, maybe drink a cute little orange Halloween martini, and dress up however you want.
There is, however, one downside to the holiday, and that is the habit of using another culture as a costume. You might see people dressed up as a Rabbi, a Nun, a Native American Princess, or anything related to Day of The Dead (Dia de Los Muertos, a Latin American holiday most famously known for how it is celebrated in Mexico). You might find this cute, funny or even sort of artsy and cool, but it might really hurt someone’s feelings that you think their culture is a costume, something to make fun of and treat use for your own benefit.
As I was browsing through a shop in Staines, I noticed there were make-up kits and masks depicting traditional Day of the Dead under the Halloween section. This shop was profiting from a holiday that has nothing to do with Halloween, and people would start attributing Day of the Dead, specifically the Mexican traditions within it, to being just another aspect of Halloween.
Day of the Dead, also known as All Saints Day, is considered a sacred holiday around most Catholic Countries. It is a day when people pay tribute to their families.
The traditions vary from country to country, but in several Latin American countries there are colourful celebrations with big parties, skull costumes and big feasts. The most internationally famous celebration is the Mexican one, which was recently shown in the Pixar's movie Coco, and has been mimicked all over the world for Halloween.
However, the two days are completely separate things and not to be confused with one another. As someone from Latin America, I see Day of the Dead as a sacred, beautiful holiday. I have celebrated it with friends, and have even been convinced to completely adorn myself in traditional wear for the holiday as I celebrated it recently with friends and family.
One year I combined my Chilean traditions of the day with my friend's Mexican traditions: we had a really interesting version of Day of the Dead that celebrated both the unity and the diversity of Hispanic countries.
The idea of mixing Day of the Dead with Halloween is offensive because it almost makes a mockery of the holiday, but that doesn't mean that non-Latinos can't celebrate Day of the Dead. In fact, I invite you to look into it and read about it, it's a tradition that dates back a long time and varies from country to country but the feeling of family and remembrance is similar all over the continent.
So, as you start browsing through Instagram looking for fun ideas to dress up as for Halloween, try to be responsible. Don’t dress up as a Gypsy or a Geisha, or anything that belittles other people’s cultures. It makes people think you treat their traditions as a joke and is just plain disrespectful.
There are so many options for costumes, so there isn't even any need to steal other people's beloved traditions! You can literally be anything, like this person from my high school.
Try to be respectful and smart this year, so we can make this Halloween a fun and inoffensive one!