Celebrating the Day of the Dead with Celebs We Wish Were Still Alive
In Mexico every year, Halloween brings more than candy and costumes: it celebrates the advent of the Día de los
In Mexico every year, Halloween brings more than candy and costumes: it celebrates the advent of the Día de los Muertos celebration. On November 1st, traditional beliefs share that the souls of children who have departed can rejoin their families for 24 hours. On November 2nd, souls of adults can do the same. It’s a beautiful tradition that ranges from solemn and heavy to jubilant and festive. CELEB takes look back at some of the celebrities who have died that we wish we could spend another day with.
Actors We Miss
Although most people won’t meet the celebrities they admire, sometimes we form very strong emotional connections with our favorites. Whether you watch them on the big or small screen, over time you can feel like you know a person through their work, and social media brings us closer to them than ever. So when a celebrity passes, sometimes it feels like losing a close friend or family member, and you’ll never see them create new art again which feels like another loss on top of it.
CELEB takes a look at some of the most beloved actors who are no longer wish us that we wish would come back for 24 hours:
- Robin Williams: Ask most people which celebrity they wish they could bring back to life, and a lot will say Williams. The comedian and actor was beloved for his gentle, thoughtful nature and brilliant voice and comedy repertoire, and his death by suicide in 2014 rocked the world. Williams has since become the face of depression and the poster child for, “You never know how much someone is suffering,” because he shared so many laughs and smiles with people. Even though one of Williams’ most beloved characters, the Genie from Aladdin, assures us that you can’t bring people back from the dead – we sure wish we could make an exception.
- Heath Ledger: Ledger rose to fame as a heart-throb in the ’90’s as the romantic lead in the Taming of the Shrew interpretation cult classic titled 10 Things I Hate About You, then grew in acclaim with A Knight’s Tale. It was his role as the Joker in the Batman movie The Dark Knight that rocketed him to superstardom. Unfortunately, it was also his role as Joker that led to his unintentional overdose after months of poor sleep. A method actor, Ledger is thought to have tortured himself mentally in bringing the Joker to life and his desperation to get some healing sleep led to his untimely death at just 28. He had so much potential and such a promising future; we would love to have seen where he went next in life.
- Alan Rickman: A British actor and director with an instantly recognizable deep, rumbling voice, Rickman was one of the most beloved actors. With a storied career from Die Hard all the way up to his role as Harry Potter‘s Severus Snape, Rickman was versatile, friendly, and talented beyond measure. He died from pancreatic cancer in 2016 at the age of 69 and left behind a legacy with shoes that are impossible to fill. No one will ever sound and look quite like Rickman.
- Elizabeth Taylor: A darling of the golden era of Hollywood, Taylor was a child actress who segued into an immensely popular career as an adult. One of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, Taylor despised the control executives had over her life and career and stepped away from the life in the ’60’s for the most part. She famously had 7 husbands, 4 children, and a love for philanthropy. Taylor died in 2011 at the age of 79.
Of course if you travel further back in time than the ’00s, there are a lot more beloved celebs to recall like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and on it goes. The one thing Hollywood has proven to fans time and time again is that we may not personally know the celebs we idolize, but we feel their deaths keenly.
Artists We Wish Were Still Around
Just like actors, sometimes musicians come to feel like family. If their music speaks to our soul, we feel fiercely connected to the person who wrote and/or sang the song, so their loss can be deeply and profoundly moving. Here are some of the music artists we’ve lost over the years we’d love to share some music with for another day:
- Whitney Houston: Houston’s song, “I will always love you,” turned out to be prophetic because we definitely still love her. One of the world’s most successful musical artists of all time, Houston created mega-hits like “I wanna dance with somebody,” “How will I know?” and, “Didn’t we almost have it all?” Houston died of an unintentionally deadly drug and alcohol combination in 2012 at the young age of 48. In some ways though, Houston came back to life recently. A hologram performance of the superstar brought her back in Las Vegas, with the possibility of a tour in 2022 or 2023.
- Tupac Shakur: Speaking of holographic performances, the first artist to be brought back to life via holograms was the legendary rapper Tupac. Utterly instrumental in shaping the rap industry of the ’80’s and early ’90’s, Shakur remains one of the best-selling artists of all time. The rapper was famously shot and killed in 1996 although some diehard fans will swear he never actually died.
- Michael Jackson: The controversial King of Pop died from a Propofol overdose in 2009. A child star member of the Jackson 5, Jackson’s life was beset by public and private turmoil. From accusations that Jackson was a pedophile and attempting to change his natural skin color, to controversy over the access to heavy sedative drugs he enjoyed due to status, Jackson’s reputation was tarnished before he died. However, Jackson leaves behind a library of some of the most popular songs in history was well as an estate that owns the rights to many more.
- Chester Bennington: Bennington was the lead singer of alternative group Linkin Park and died by suicide at the age of 41 in 2017. Although he died young, Bennington left behind a legacy of music that spoke to people struggling with depression and drug addiction. With a keen mind for lyrics and a signature raspy voice, Bennington’s career could have spanned the decades and his early loss was immensely tragic. Like Williams, Bennington became the poster child for hiding depression behind a smile and success.
Going farther back in history, we’d love to spend a day with artists like Elvis Presley – boy would we have some questions for him – Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin among others. When musical artists die you don’t just lose the art they’ve already made, you lose every song that would have one day spoken to your soul.
Día de los Muertos
But the Day of the Dead in Mexico is more than just a day to lament about celebrities long passed on. The traditions behind Día de los Muertos trace all the way back to the ancient Aztecs. They used skulls to honor the dead, a tradition which persists today in modern celebrations. Columbia, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela all have their own version of the Day of the Dead celebrations but Mexico’s is the most world-famous.
History shares, “Once the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire in the 16th century, the Catholic Church moved indigenous celebrations and rituals honoring the dead throughout the year to the Catholic dates commemorating All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2. In what became known as Día de Muertos on November 2, the Latin American indigenous traditions and symbols to honor the dead fused with non-official Catholic practices and notions of an afterlife. The same happened on November 1 to honor children who had died.”
People who celebrate build altars and line them with ofrendas – or offerings – for their dearly departed loved ones. They read letters and share stories and jokes that pertain to the ones they miss. Traditional dishes are served, and traditional flowers are used to guide the souls of loved ones home. During this celebration, Mexican families go to the graveyard and clean the graves of their loved ones to help them find their way back to a welcoming embrace. On November 1st, souls of children who have died return to spend the day with their families. On November 2nd, families bring food to graveyards and celebrate with adult loved ones who also return.
The holiday focuses on celebrating the loved ones who are no longer with us, showing them how dearly they are missed with physical offerings and traditional celebrations. It’s both a lament and a celebration, and colorful garments and masks are worn to show the spirits the way home and then see them on their way at the celebration’s end.
Although the celebration seems bizarre and macabre to some, it’s a beautiful way to revisit the lives of loved ones lost and remember the place they have in families even after they’re long gone.