Across Mexico, the Day of the Dead festival runs from October 31st until November 2nd, which is a non-workable holiday.
Mexico City – The end of October was usually a time when Mexicans would spend time preparing for El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in which loved ones who have passed away are remembered in a colorful holiday that combines faith, pain and joy.
Many families set up picnics at their loved ones’ gravesites, while others build elaborate shrines at home, replete with marigolds, candles and photos.
Slowly, however, the American Halloween is creeping in.
In a recent survey by the local polling firm Consulta Mitofsky, 59 percent of Mexicans said this year they were planning to celebrate Day of the Dead, compared to 23 percent who said they would go for Halloween instead. Sixteen percent said they would mark both holidays.
“The kids want masks of their favorite movie and TV characters and enjoy the spooky aspect of Halloween,” said Claudia Romero, a 29-year-old mother of two who was shopping for masks and costumes downtown.
“We still build a shrine in the house with pictures of family members and traditional items, because it’s important that the children keep in touch their culture,” she told Fox News Latino.
This year, a third layer will be added to the Mexican celebration, inspired by the spectacular opening scene of the most recent James Bond movie, “Spectre.” For the first time, the city will host a Day of the Dead Parade similar to that seen in the blockbuster movie – which was entirely fictional.
“These will be some of the most spectacular Day of the Dead festivities ever seen in Mexico City,” Gabriela López, a spokeswoman for the capital’s Ministry of Culture, told FNL. “The original idea came from the movie, but also a desire to show that Mexicans do Mexican culture better than anybody else.”
The observance of Day of the Dead, always on the eve of the Roman Catholic holiday All Saints Day on Nov. 1, is rooted in Aztec traditions and based on the legend of the goddess Mictecacihuatl.
It was scarcely celebrated in many parts of the country until the 20th century, when leaders wanted to foster cultural nationalism. It became an official holiday in the 1960s.
Mexico City’s Chamber for Small Business and Tourism has estimated a likely revenue of more than $500 million this year, both holidays combined.
Out of his street stall in Mexico City, Carlos Anaya is doing a roaring trade in Halloween masks depicting everyone from Dracula and Spider-Man to crooked politicians to Donald Trump.
“I can move up to 40 masks a day and the holiday’s still over a week away,” he told Fox News Latino recently. “Whether it’s Halloween or Day of the Dead, it’s all about having a good time and spending time with family,” he said.
“Both traditions should continue.”
Paul Imison is a freelance journalist based in Mexico City. Follow him on Twitter: @paulimison