Why I'd rather celebrate Day of the Dead
On the first night of November, it is said since ancient times, the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the most porous, so that we are nearest to our lost ones. In that night, the ancient Celtics celebrated a feast they called Samhain. Today, there are still some shady people who celebrate it, but most of us know more about Halloween. At least where I live, though, Halloween is celebrated merely by buying thousands of things for costumes, decoration and trick-or-treat-action. Just for fun, but with no deeper cultural intent.
At first sight, Mexican Day of the Dead might also appear as a mere commercial carnival, with all kinds of colorful morbid costumes and decoration that attract lots of tourists from all over the world, every year. But there is something else at the core of that macabre party, an astonishing belief rooted in ancient Aztec death cult "Life is but a dream - only in death are we truly awake" (s. reference).
Seen as the only "real" condition of humanity, death might lose lots of his terror. And why should we live in terror of something that will definitely happen to all of us and to all of our loved ones? Why mourn them, when we can celebrate them? - These ideas seem to reflect in the playful decoration and habits of Día de los Muertos.
Personally, I like the idea of a feast where people dance and eat on a graveyard. Unthinkable f.e. on German all saints day, where we mostly honor the dead by putting a cheerless garland to grandpas grave and light a candle. Why not cook grandpas favorite meal instead (lentil soup with wieners, I remember...) and bring a schnaps and some cigarillos to his grave?
Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to experience Day of the Dead yet, so feel free to correct me if you find any mistakes or misinterpretations. All the knowledge I have on this is based on the referenced BBC documentary as well as some books and net articles. Thus re-comments of any kind are very welcome!