How the “Dia de los Muertos” Became a Popular Holiday

Albert Cano, 

Cano Bail Bonds, owner/writer.

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday that has been celebrated in Mexico for centuries. However, it was only about 36 years ago that the holiday began to gain popularity in the United States. Now, the holiday is celebrated by people of all cultures and backgrounds. Here’s a look at how the Day of the Dead became such a popular holiday. 


The History of the Day of the Dead

The roots of the Day of the Dead date back to pre-Hispanic times. The holiday was first celebrated in October, at the same time as an Aztec festival for the goddess Mictecacihuatl. In 1521, when Spain took over Mexico, Catholic missionaries went there to try to convert the native people to Christianity. They were able to make many parts of the Aztec festival more Christian. For example, they moved it to November 1 and 2 to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. 

The holiday really began to gain popularity in Mexico in the 1950s and ’60s, thanks in part to public figures like artist Frida Kahlo and writer Octavio Paz, who helped promote Mexican culture and traditions. In 1987, UNESCO declared Dia de los Muertos an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” The holiday finally began to gain traction in the United States in the 1990s as more and more Mexicans immigrated north. 


How Dia de los Muertos Is Celebrated Today

There are many different ways that people celebrate Dia de los Muertos today. Some people choose to host big parties with music and dancing, while others prefer more low-key celebrations with family and friends. Of course, no matter how big or small the celebration, one of the most important traditions is setting up an altar (ofrenda)to honor deceased loved ones. 

Altars typically include pictures of deceased loved ones, as well as their favorite foods and drinks, candles, marigolds, and other items that would make them feel welcome and comfortable. Many people also take part in processions or parades, wearing colorful costumes and face paint. Others choose to visit cemeteries to clean headstones and decorate gravesites with flowers, wreaths, and other decorations. 



No matter how you choose to celebrate it, there’s no doubt that Dia de los Muertos is a special holiday with a rich history. If you’ve never celebrated before, why not give it a try this year? You might just find yourself surprised at how much you enjoy it!