From Brazil to the Philippines: How Countries Around the Globe Celebrate Día de Muertos

Lead Photo: Revelers dance during a Day of the Dead party on November 1, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Revelers dance during a Day of the Dead party on November 1, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
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While Mexico is the country most renowned for Día de Muertos, the holiday honoring the dead is celebrated across Latin America and beyond. From Brazil to the Philippines, November 1 and 2 are the days of the year when families and friends gather to pay tribute to their deceased loved ones. For some cultures, it’s a day of festivities. For others, it’s a time for mourning. But while traditions and customs change depending on the region, one thing remains the same: everyone yearns for a way to commemorate the lives of the loved ones that are no longer with them.

Here, take a look at how countries around the world celebrate the Day of the Dead their own way.

El Día de los Difuntos, Ecuador

Ecuador celebrates El Día de los Difuntos, or the Day of the Deceased, on Nov. 2, right after their smaller celebration of El Día de Todos los Santos on Nov. 1. While El Día de Todos los Santos is a quieter celebration that primarily focuses on children who have passed away, El Día de los Difuntos is much more upbeat. Families and friends gather to reminisce about their dearly departed relatives and partake in food and drink. One of those treats is guaguas de pan, a traditional Ecuadorian pastry made in the shape of a baby.

Undás, The Philippines

In the Philippines, celebrating Undás — All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively — is a time of year devoted to family.  They honor the lives of those who have passed away by feasting together. It is traditional for Filipinos who no longer live near their families to travel back home in order to celebrate Undás with their loved ones. Like many other Día de Muertos-celebrating countries, Filipinos use this time to tidy up cemeteries, place flowers on graves and light candles in honor of their relatives who have passed on.

Festival de Barriletes Gigantes, Guatemala

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¿Por qué se realiza el famoso Festival de Barriletes Gigantes? 💫 … Según la tradición oral, ese día las almas de los muertos son liberadas por 24 Hrs para regresar a sus hogares. Los vivos deben estar preparados con comida y flores en sus casas, ya que si los espíritus no encuentran buena recibida, éstos pueden causar daños 💀. … Los pobladores al darse cuenta que habían espíritus malos, decidieron elevar lienzos de papel al aire, que al chocar con el viento hacían ruidos que indicarían a los espíritus el camino al cielo y se alejarían ⛅️. … Con el paso de los años se fue convirtiendo en una tradición hasta convertirse en lo que ahora podemos apreciar. Actualmente, los barriletes actúan como mensajeros ya que a muchos de estos barriletes se les coloca algún mensaje que él vivo quiera darle al muerto 💕. … Está tradición inició a principios del siglo XX y fue declarada como Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación en el año 1998. … ¡Guatemala es un país lleno de costumbres y tradiciones únicas en el mundo! 🇬🇹 … #guatemala #barriletesgigantes #santiagosacatepequez #sumpango #perhapsyouneedalittleguatemala #prensalibre #quepeladoguate #quelindaguate #guatelinda #chapinasviajeras #viajar #travelguide #travelpics #amoviajar #soy502 #visitguatemala #realturgt #barrilete #explorandoguatemala #therealguatemala #losrinconesdemiguate

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On Nov. 1, Guatemalans celebrate the beautiful Festival de Barriletes Gigantes, or Festival of Giant Kites, in the town of Sumpango. There, locals gather in the thousands to fly enormous, extravagant, multi-colored kites. Many of the kites are painted by hand and prepared throughout the year. The tradition of flying kites to honor the dead is believed to date back 3,000 years ago, when Indigenous Guatemalans believed that one could use kites to communicate with those who had passed on. At the festival, locals eat fiambre, a traditional Guatemalan salad made specifically for the holiday that has dozens of ingredients — all selected to honor the dead.

Dia de Finados, Brazil

In Brazil, the Day of the Dead, known there as Dia de Finados, isn’t so much a pagan-influenced celebration as it is a Catholic holiday. On this day, Brazilians often attend mass and pay their respects to their departed loved ones through solitary spiritual practice, in addition to tidying graves and placing fresh flowers at cemeteries. For them, Nov. 2 is more somber than celebratory. However, it has become more common in recent years to have friends and family over for a meal or enjoy street parties during Dia de Finados.

Día de los Difuntos, Peru

For Peruvians, El Día de los Difuntos consists of two parts. On Nov. 1, the focus is celebrating and feasting. Families gather to eat a meal usually made up of the departeds’ favorite foods. The following day, Peruvians generally visit cemeteries where their loved ones are buried, together enjoying music, food and loving company.

La Calabiuza, El Salvador

In El Salvador, La Calabiuza is an Indigineous tradition of honoring the dead that includes dressing up as skeletons or characters from mythology and carrying torches while parading through cities. The holiday, which predates Spanish colonization, has recently been reclaimed in an effort to combat the growing presence of Americanized Halloween celebrations. Increasingly seen as a nationalistic event, La Calabiuza is celebrated to pointedly reject the lingering influence of Spanish colonialism and subjugation of El Salvador’s Indigenous peoples.

Día de Muertos, Mexico

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¡Estamos listos para recibirlos hoy! #Calaverandia

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In Mexico, where Día de Muertos celebrations are most popular, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 are days to remember and celebrate loved ones who have passed on. It involves setting an altar filled with ofrendas, like food and pictures of the deceased, to send the souls of the dead back home. Altars are created both in private homes as well as at massive events, from festivals to a new amusement park.

Hanal Pixan, People of Yucatec Maya Descent in Belize, Guatemala and Southern Mexico

Hanal Pixan, meaning “food for the souls” in the Mayan language, is a celebration of the dead for people of Yucatec Mayan descent throughout Central America and Southern Mexico. The celebration largely revolves around food. What differentiates Hanal Pixan from the traditional Día de Muertos in Mexico is that traditional Yucatan dishes are prepared as offerings for spirits. The dish of mucbipollo, for instance, is the main event for Hanal Pixan celebrations. It’s a cuisine of corn dough and chicken wrapped in banana leaves and baked in an underground pit.

Todos Los Santos, Spain

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#pasteleriaalameda #huesosdesanto #tosantos2019

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In Europe, Spaniards also remember their dead on Nov. 1. Todos Los Santos is a religious Spanish holiday. While many people do visit cemeteries with flowers and offerings like in other countries, you will rarely find them dressing up or partying. There is, however, a tradition of eating huesos de santo — a delicacy made of marzipan that resembles human bones — on and around the holiday.