Samhain begins the evening of Oct. 31 and ends 24 hours later, while Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) takes place Nov. 1 and 2.
What is interesting about Oct. 31/Nov. 1 is that it is a “cross-quarter day,” it is halfway between the fall equinox and winter solstice. Cross quarter days have held great significance in many cultures, with Groundhog or Candlemas Day taking place on Feb. 2 and Oct. 31 being Samhain, which has evolved in various parts of the world to become Halloween.
In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain (sow-win) was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the other world was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.
Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is also the time that ancestors are honored and visit the living. While this custom is very much connected with Mexico, people all over Central and South America celebrate this custom
In both traditions, altars are set up to honor deceased ancestors and loved ones. Special foods and drink are available for both the spirits and the living. It’s a time to dance, make bonfires, feast, clean gravestones, light special candles and remember those who have gone before us.