The Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life

One time a year,
our departed come back
to celebrate with us

The Day of the Dead is an increasingly popular tradition around the world, and we wanted to demystify it for you.

Called Dia De Los Muertos, this two-day celebration brings the living and the dead together. For this occasion, families prepare offerings to honor their deceased family members, and decorate a corner of their home (the altar) with yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and their favorite foods and drinks. Through the offerings, it is believed that the dead are encouraged to visit their families, drawn by the comforting scents of the food and treats left by their families for them.

The Day of the Dead holiday is unique in that it celebrates LIFE and DEATH; mourning gives way to celebration, darkness to light, death to rebirth.

Three distinct moments to celebrate the different dead

The Day of Little Angels (Dia de los Angelitos) kicks off the festivities and is celebrated from midnight on November 1 (the night between October 31 and November 1). This is the feast reserved for deceased children, who are believed to return to celebrate with their families for a period of 24 hours. For them, families build an altar, called ofrenda, and decorate it with the child’s favorite toys, snacks and sweets, or photos, to encourage the child to visit. The child’s name is often written on the sugar skulls (calveras) that also decorate the altar.

At midnight on the following day (November 2), the Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Departed) begins. On this night, we laugh together, have a good time and recall fond memories of the deceased. The offerings are more suited to an adult lifestyle, and tequila, pan de muerto, mezcal, pulque and jars of Atole are served. Games and music are played, and we reminisce about the good old days.

Finally, at noon on November 2, it’s time for the ultimate celebration, Day of the Dead. Most people go to a public celebration organized by the town or region, and dress up as skeletons or Catrinas. Public parades and dances are organized. Others take the opportunity to visit the cemetery to decorate the graves of the deceased with marigold flowers, gifts and sugar skulls. The grave is also cleaned and made beautiful again.

What you need to know about Day of the Dead

Day of the dead is not Halloween

Day of the Dead is not the “Mexican Halloween” like it is sometimes mistaken to be because of the timing of the year. The two holidays originated with similar afterlife beliefs but are very different in modern day. Halloween began as a Celtic Festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts but has recently turned into a tradition of costume wearing and trick-or-treating. Decorating your house with spiders and bats and wearing scary costumes is not done in most parts of Mexico.

It’s not somber but celebratory

Many of us see death as a sad event but those who celebrate Day of the Dead view death as a welcomed part of life. That is why you will see brightly colored skeletons and skulls everywhere during the holiday. They often are seen smiling, as a friendly nod to death, even mocking death. This view of death began way back during the one month Aztec festival where they celebrated the dead and paid homage to the lady of death, Mictlancíhuatl, who protected their departed loved ones and helped them in the afterlife.

Traditions are different by Country

Believe it or not, Mexicans are not the only ones to celebrate Day of the Dead. It is a widely celebrated holiday all over the world. In fact, many religious communities celebrate All Souls Day (also known as All Saints Day) during the same time as Day of the Dead. The act of honoring the dead is widely celebrated around the world but Day of the Dead is unique in its traditions: the ofrenda, the meaning of life and death, the use of calaveras, the style influenced by La Catrina, and more recently, the festivals in the streets.


SOURCE: Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos)

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