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Dia de los Muertos - A Celebration of Life, Culture and Tradition

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Dia de los Muertos, also known as the the Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated over several days from October 31st through November 2nd. Although this is celebrated throughout Latin America, it is strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. Dia de los Muertos honors the dead with festivals and lively celebrations. This tradition combines the indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism. It is celebrated on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, minor holidays in the Catholic calendar.

Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities that were enjoyed in life. Often times, an altar (ofrenda) will be decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. The celebration recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.

The most familiar symbol of Dia de los Muertos are the skeletons and skulls, known as calacas and calaveras. These symbols appear on candies, sweets, masks, dolls, and in parades. The calacas and calaveras symbolize enjoyment in life.

How to Honor Dia de los Muertos

  • Visit the gravesite of a loved one. Families usually make a trip to the cemetery to clean up their loved one's memorial by pulling weeds, removing debris, and beautifying the grave with candles, marigolds, sugar skulls, and the favorite foods and beverages.

  • Cook your loved one's favorite recipes and make an afternoon of eating, singing and telling stories about the people whom you miss.

  • Set up an altar (ofrenda) in your home and decorate with a floral arch, colorful tissue paper banners, lighted candles, pan de muerto, fruits, salt, painted ceramic or sugar skulls, and photos of loved ones.

  • Make your own sugar skulls. Buy a plastic mold purchased from a craft store or online or make sugar skull cookies to decorate.

Next time you come across a Dia de los Muertos celebration, take a moment to reflect on what the honored enjoyed and celebrate their life.

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