The Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico right after our US holiday, Halloween. The celebration lasts for 2 days from Nov 1-2. Historically, Nov 1 was to celebrate deceased children, Nov 2 was to celebrate deceased adults. It’s NOT the Mexican version of Halloween – in fact it’s the complete opposite. While Halloween is about tricks and mischief, Day of the Dead is about celebrating the lives of those who have passed in an explosion of color and joy.
The holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and helping support their spiritual journey. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building and decorating private altars (ofrendas) to welcome the spirits back to the realm of the living. They are loaded with offerings – water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos and a candle for each dead relative. Marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the altar.
One of the culinary highlights is Bread of the Dead (Pan de Muerto), which is a semi-sweet sugar-dusted bread made from eggs and infused with natural citrus fruit flavors. It’s traditionally taken with hot chocolate mixed with cinnamon and whisked.
“Todos somos calaveras”, a quote commonly attributed to the Mexican political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada, means “we are all skeletons”. Underneath our exterior, we are all the same. Dressing up as skeletons is part of the fun. Sugar skulls are part of a traditions brought by 17th-century Italian missionaries.
Day of the dead is a social holiday that spills into the streets at all hours of the day and night. A local cemetery that you can visit is just a short taxi ride from downtown. It’s the Panteón 5 de Diciembre and is located at Brasilia 715, 5 de Diciembre.
We want to hear about your Day of the Dead experience!