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Ian: You are listening to “Coffee with Gringos.” I'm Ian Kennedy.

Paige: And I'm Paige Sutherland.

Ian: And today we're going to be talking about something very important due to the time of year. We're getting into October, which means we're getting close to a very important Mexican holiday that’s called “Día de los Muertos” in Spanish and in English, “Day of the Dead.” Now, this is a very important holiday, like I mentioned, in Mexico. It's the celebration of the passing and the death of loved ones. And it's the yearly celebration to celebrate the lives of those people that have been important in our lives and to give them offerings, as well. So, Paige, do you have much knowledge or experience with this particular holiday?

Paige: I'm going to be honest, most of my knowledge of this holiday comes from the Pixar movie, “Coco.”

Ian: Great film.

Paige: Yeah, really good film—animated. But yeah, I think it's a great holiday. I wish that I could try out it.

Ian: Yeah. And it's really interesting. We were talking about before the podcast how just the different views, I think, in different countries of how the people think about death in general. So, I think a lot of us gringos, we think of death as something that's kind of scary or taboo or something we want to try to avoid, or something dark we don't like talking about. But it's kind of the contrary in Mexico. So, the point of Día de los Muertos, like I said is, it's a day to celebrate the lives in the passing of these people because in Mexican culture, death is as much of life as life itself. It's part of the human cycle. So, it's really interesting to look at how different cultures treat death in general. And I think it's really cool, the way that Mexicans treat the passing of loved ones or friends is just another part of the process. Not something to fear, not something to shy away from, but something to embrace and something to celebrate.

Paige: I agree. I think it's a really great holiday because, you know, it's like you said, Ian, death is part of life. So, why not look at it in a positive way? And, I think, as I saw on “Coco”, it's really cool because your family lives on—generations and generations. And, you know, as a young person, you get to hear about the life of your great, great grandfather and you build an altar and you put some of his possessions and maybe his favorite food that he loved and you honor and remember him in such a positive way—him or her. And I think that's really great because, like you said, death is something to be afraid of. The month of October, for us, it’s scary movies and being scared and monsters and killers and all these dark things. Where in Mexico, it's completely opposite.

Ian: Exactly. It's just a whole different perspective to look at, again, to look at death in a different way. I think it's a really beautiful tradition. Like you said, you bring food, you bring belongings, things that you know the deceased in your life loved. And it's a great way to really to honor them, to remember them, to talk with your family about all the great times you had with them. As opposed to just, like, forgetting them or not wanting to talk about it because it's something that’s uncomfortable in certain cultures. So, I actually think it'd be great if the US culture would shy a little bit away from the dark, of kind of scary feeling that that brings for us and to kind of embrace it more with positivity. And yeah, just remembering those amazing people and times that you've had in your life.

Paige: I agree. Too often the US, you kind of forget about those that are gone. And, you know, maybe you remember them on their birthday, right, or the day they died or something like that. But to have a day every year where you remember all your loved ones who passed away is pretty remarkable. And I think, especially for young generations, because, I mean, to be honest sitting here right now, I know very little about my great grandparents, and my great-great grandparents and where my family came from, or what my grandfather did when he was younger. I know very little, because you don't really talk about it in the US. I mean, maybe if you ask and you're inquisitive, but to have a day where you all share stories about loved ones and talk about, you know, maybe how you were raised or this or funny stories is kind of great.

Ian: Sure, that's a really good point you make. I think a lot of people don't understand their personal history or their family's history. Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? And not just, I don't mean like in an existential stance. I mean, like, in a sense of knowing your family and knowing, you know, who are we? And, you know, you bring up a good point. I don't know enough about my ancestors either. And so, I think with some kind of celebration to be able to talk about these things, it'd be a great way not only to, to celebrate these people, but to learn a little bit more about yourself even.

Paige:  As we talked about in the US, October for us is Halloween. So, during Halloween, like we talked about before, it's all about being scared. So, it's monsters and skeletons and vampires, and all these kinds of…

Ian: Killers…all these crazy things.

Paige: Yeah. And I'm not gonna lie, I love it. I love scary movies. But also, you know, Halloween is all about dressing up and candy. That's basically what it is in the US. And in the US, like, Halloween is a big holiday especially for young kids, college kids—like, they take dressing up very seriously. What is your best Halloween costume?

Ian: Oh, that's a really good question. I've had some really good Halloween costumes. I'll tell you one in particular that was really funny. So, my mom and I, we look exactly alike—like, in the face and just in the way we appear. So, when I was a younger boy one year, I dressed up as a cheerleader. And I went to my grandma's house to visit that night for Halloween, to get candy, and my grandma almost fainted on the floor because she thought that I was my mom—like a younger, I looked like a spitting image of my mom as a little girl. And so, I remember that being the costume that freaked out my family more than any others, I think. So, it was really funny to have my grandma say, “Is that you, daughter? Yeah, so it was a funny one.

Paige: How committed were you? Like, wig…makeup?

Ian: Wig, lipstick—I was the full thing.

Paige: How old were you?

Ian: Uhhh, maybe 11 or 12, something like that, yeah. So, I went all in for it, yeah.

Paige: I'll have to see some photos.

Ian: Yeah, we'll have to dig them out of the crates. Yeah, they’re somewhere. But yeah, that's, you know, it's always fun to dress up, to have a reason to celebrate. What about you? What was the was a costume you sported?

Paige: Hmm. I had quite a few creative ones in college. I think this one's a little nerdy, but one that comes to the top of my head was we had, like, a group of girls in my college that we were all really good friends. So, we dressed up as the Spice Girls—but actual spices. So, like, I was like paprika, someone was ginger—who was the redhead. Like, someone that was like cumin. We looked like jars of spices with, like, a hat on.  

Ian: Nice. Creative.

Paige: I’m trying to think of some other ones. One year when Robin Williams died, we just dressed up as a character of the movies and I was the genie. So, I went full blue face. I will say I regret because if you’re drinking with face makeup, it’s just, like, it’s a mess.

Ian: Yeah, I can imagine. yeah, of course.  

Paige: So yeah, so some creative ones. That's what I do like about Halloween, especially as you get older, you can get very topical. So, you can do something that's in the news or, like, something funny that happened that year, which I enjoy.

Ian: And just a quick reminder, if you are interested in taking private classes with Dynamic English, go ahead and check out our website at And there you can sign up for private classes in your apartment, in your house, in your office. You can even now take classes online—sitting on your couch, you can log on and practice English. It's very easy. So, if you're interested, check us out also on social media through Facebook or Instagram.

Ian: You know, going back to Day of the Dead, the one thing about the two holidays that it is noticeable and there is a big difference is, now, along with that fun of Halloween with the candy, with the costumes, with the movies, there's a real palpable sense of commercialism that comes along with it also. So, you know, while it is a great day, there's certain marketing offers, there's Halloween products, there's costumes, there's a lot of money involved in it. Whereas I think with Day of the Dead, it's gotten much more of a separation between just more of a celebration with a lot less commercialism. Which I find to be nicer, in that sense.

Paige: On that, I was home in August—August—and Halloween is October 31. And there was already Halloween decorations, candy, costumes and everything. So, I feel like every year that marketing and that, like, money machine just comes, like, earlier and earlier.

Ian: Exactly, earlier and earlier, getting people more excited about it. It's like, there's always jokes, you know, as soon as you know, it turns from September to October, everything turns orange and red. It's about leaves, at least in the US because it's autumn for us. So, you have that along with everything scary and costumes, get your candy, get all these things that are associated with the holiday happening very early.

Paige: Day of the Dead, I think it's probably a holiday that is the same throughout generations. But for Halloween in the US, when you're in college, when you’re an adult, it's about dressing up and, like, going to a party. But when you're a kid, Halloween is probably one of the best holidays because you get a year supply of candy. I mean, I was so addicted to candy—I still am—but when I was younger, each town has their “trick or treating.” Which, trick or treating is one night of the week around Halloween, you go out and you go to your neighbor's houses and they give you free candy and you dress up and you say “trick or treat” and they give you candy. And different towns have different days that they do it. They usually spread it out for traffic, probably reasons, and I would go to multiple towns. So, I would have like, three nights of, like, candy from trick or treating.

Ian: Yeah, you were a pro.

Paige: I took it very, very seriously.

Ian: Yeah, that's great. I remember having so much candy that my mom would make me throw away candy from the previous year, because I would still have a few pieces leftover from the year before and she would say “that’s ridiculous, throw that away.”

Paige: What was there a candy that you got really excited about when you went trick or treating?

Ian: I was always really excited for the Skittles. Skittles bags were always a good gift. Nobody ever wanted the apples. Did you ever get apples?

Paige: I wouldn't even take them.

Ian: Yeah, that was like, “why am I even wasting my time?” 

Paige: Anything that didn't have sugar I didn’t want a part of.

Ian: Exactly, exactly.  

Paige: Yeah, exactly. The best was when you would go to a house and it would be, like, a full Snickers bar or, like, a full Reese’s pack. Like, the actual—not like the fun size—because usually when you took a treat, it's, like, miniature versions.

Ian: Right.

Paige: But the houses that gave out the actual regular size were pretty awesome.

Ian: Definitely, yeah. So, while we have a lot of experience with Halloween, I really wish I had more experiences with Day of the Dead, just so I could have a better perspective, a better appreciation. And I'm lucky, last year I lived with a Mexican girl for a little while. And she made it very important for all of us to understand the meaning of the holiday, that we all participated. You know, she came to each of us and said, you know, “It's Day of the Dead, if you have anything, food or an item that reminds you of a loved one, bring it and we'll set it on the table.” And it was really beautiful to, you know, for a week in my house every time I walked by the table, see a special item that was something important for each person in the house. So again, you also, you learn more about the people around you, not even just about yourself. You learn more about them, about their family. It's just a really great bonding experience. And yeah, like I said, I wish I wish it was something more normalized for us and something that we got to experience more because, again, I think those who don't understand Day of the Dead, they also look at it and wonder “what really is being celebrated?” You know, you see the face masks, you see the paint, you see kind of a mix of Halloween and something that's more traditional. So, for a lot of people, it's not really that they're afraid of it, they just don't know what it is really. So, I felt like it was really beneficial to get a Mexican’s perspective on the holiday, to experience it myself. And to kind of get rid of some of that doubt I had before.

Paige: So, I mean Day of the Dead doesn't sound like a very happy holiday, based on the words. But I think in honor of this episode, I think CWG just needs to celebrate Day of the Dead this year.

Ian: I think so. I think that's a good idea.

Paige: And I think all our listeners should do the same. Remember, if you get lost, check out that transcript and audio guide online. Thanks for listening,

 Ian: And we'll see you next time.


Key Vocabulary, Phrases and Slang:


1.     passing (euphemism): a person’s death.

a.     His grandpa’s passing happened almost five years ago.  

2.     to shy away (phrasal verb): to avoid

a.     It isn’t good to shy away from responsibility that you take.

3.     to embrace (verb): to accept or support

a.     I need to embrace the fact I’m not going to play in the NBA.

4.     belongings (noun): possessions, something someone owns.

a.     We have all of our belongings in the basement.

5.     the deceased (noun): someone who is dead.

a.     Day of the Dead celebrates the deceased people from our lives.

6.     remarkable (adjective): incredible, amazing.

a.     Day of the Dead is a remarkable holiday.

7.     inquisitive (adjective): curious.

a.     He’s always so inquisitive about the topics in our class.

8.     ancestor (noun): a person from someone’s family lineage in the past.

a.     My ancestors came from Europe.

9.     dressing up (phrasal verb): to wear a costume or something particular for a special occasion.

a.     She always enjoys dressing up for Halloween.

10.  costume (noun): something worn to appear to be something else.

a.     Halloween is so much fun because of the costumes that people wear.

11.  to appear (verb): to seem, to look like.

a.     It appears to be really cold outside today. I should wear a jacket.

12.  cheerleader (noun): member of a team that performs cheers, chants, and dancing in support of a sports team.

a.     Every basketball game includes cheerleaders from both of the teams.

13.  to faint (noun): to lose consciousness for a short time.  

a.     She almost fainted when she heard that she won the lottery.

14.  spitting image (noun): something that looks exactly the same as something else.

a.     He is a spitting image of his dad!  

15.  to freak out (phrasal verb): to cause shock or disbelief to someone else.

a.     Scary movies always freak out my sister.

16.  wig (noun): fake hair

a.     She likes to wear different wigs when she goes out with her friends.

17.  all in (adjective): to be fully committed to something.

a.     He is going all in for his Halloween party and is inviting everyone he knows.

18.  to sport (verb): to wear clothing.

a.     What do you usually sport on Halloween?

19.  nerdy (adjective): unfashionable or unpopular

a.     I always wore nerdy clothes when I was a kid.

20.  redhead (noun): someone with red or orange hair.

a.     There aren’t many redheads that I know.

21.  blue face (noun): wearing blue makeup on one’s face.  

a.     He had blue face with his costume this year.

22.  topical (adjective): something current or relevant.

a.     Our discussions in class are always topical with the current news.

23.  palpable (adjective): obvious, noticeable

a.     There was a palpable sense of fear when they entered the dark house.

24.  commercialism (noun): practice of selling products for profit.

a.     Most holidays have become days for commercialism and marketing.

25.   to spread out (phrasal verb): to place and separate something over an area.

a.     They decided to spread out the locations throughout the city.

26.  fun size (adjective): miniature, smaller size than normal.

a.     Many houses give out fun size candies on Halloween.

27.  to get rid of (phrasal verb): to dispose or throw away something.

a.     We have so much candy from last year to get rid of!