Hey guys! Today we’re celebrating el Día de los Muertos, or as we would say, the Day of the Dead. Sounds kind of spooky, right? WRONG. We’ve got a lot to learn!
El Día de los Muertos is a national holiday celebrated in Mexico and parts of Central and South America, and it actually takes place para dos dias (two days.) Wouldn’t it be super awesome if Christmas lasted that long? I’m a little jealous, not gonna lie.
Anyways, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Those dates might ring a bell for some of you, because you may have heard of the Catholic holidays called All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, (which also take place on November 1st and 2nd) and yes, there is a connection.
Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced far back to the native cultures of Mexico, like the Aztecs. Even back then, almost three thousand years ago, it was common for people to have rituals celebrating the deaths of their ancestors.
So you may be wondering, why the two day celebratory instead of just one? Well, in most regions of Mexico, the babies and children, los ninos, who have passed away, are honored on November 1st. Some people may refer to this as “Día de los Inocentes,” the day of the Innocents, or “Día de los Angelitos,” Day of the little angels. Then, on November 2nd, the adults who have passed are honored.
The celebration is planned throughout the entire year. Hours, and in some cases days, are spent preparing and making the celebration a beautiful one. Most people spend about three days cleaning and decorating the graves of their loved ones. Private altars are also built, and generally, the favorite foods and drinks, pictures, and other things that are reminders of the deceased are placed on the altars.
Offerings, or “ofrendas,” are usually set up in the home as a welcoming gesture for the spirits, and many decorate with orange marigolds called cempasúchitl, which are said to attract the souls to the offerings. Some traditional foods that are offered are el pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and sugar skulls, or “calaveras.” They taste like candy and are often made of marzipan. Toys are given for the souls of the children, and mezcal, an alcoholic drink, is offered for the adults.
In keeping with tradition, skulls, flowers, and Catrinas (representations of a female skeleton connected to the goddess of the dead) are the most common symbols used in decoration and accessories during the modern celebration. Many celebrants wear masks, various renderings of the Catrina, marigold wreaths, and jewelry with skulls and bones, and some even paint their faces.
The Mexican Day of the Dead is not just a predecessor to the modern Halloween, but an age old tradition that continues into the modern era. We all have ways of honoring our ancestors and deceased relatives, but in Mexico they spend two days doing it in style. How will you celebrate?