The Day of the Dead is the historical child of the coming together of 16th century Spanish Catholic traditions with the native religions of the Americas. In many regions of the Americas – notably in Mexico – the native peoples saw death very differently than Europeans, understanding it not as an end but rather as a metaphoric "planting" of a body in the earth as a necessary prelude to rebirth and renewed life and fertility.
These indigenous beliefs help to explain the celebratory mood of the Dia de los Muertos which might otherwise seem puzzling to a new observer.
The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.
In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month.
The festivities were dedicated to the god known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.
In most regions of Mexico, November 1 honors children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2.
This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") but also as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead").
In honor of Dia de los Muertos, the City of Austin, Texas's own Alama Drafthouse movie theatre hosted a "Thriller" dance event on 6th Street (2008)