Our Dia de los Muertos highlights some of the important traditions and symbols of the festival. Each of the words in our word cloud have a special significance, noted in the story below!
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations begin on November 1 and culminate on November 2. While it originated in Mexico as an Aztec tradition, it is celebrated all throughout Latin America and the United States. On November 1, Day of the Angels, or Dia de Angelitos, remembers babies and children that have passed away. On November 2, or Dia de los Muertos, people honor the spirits of their departed ancestors and loved ones. Though traditions will vary, families may construct an ofrenda, or altar, to honor their departed family member. During this colorful festival, ofrendas are decorated with items that represent the four elements –fire, wind, earth and water like:
- photographs of the departed
- colorful papel picado – thin sheets of colorful paper cut out in elaborate designs
- fragrant cempazuchitl, or marigolds to invite the spirits in
- pan de muerto - sweetened soft bun
- sweets, offerings and favorite foods of their loved ones
- candles and incense to cleanse the air
- sugar skulls represent a departed soul, often depicted as smiling and enjoying the afterlife
- a cross (for Catholics celebrating All Souls Day)
Families may gather at their homes or cemeteries, tend to the graves of loved ones, and exchange memories about those that have passed. They may celebrate their lives with dance, music and their favorite foods. It is said that monarch butterflies that fly over the mountains of Mexico during this time are the spirits of the departed returning.
Calacas, or skeletons, are used as a playful symbol of life after death. One of the most iconic calacas is La Catrina, a tall female skeleton wearing a fancy hat with feathers (drawn by Jose Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s).
Lastly, we’d like to note that Dia de los Muertos is NOT Mexican Halloween. Though some Latinx that are celebrating may dress up as skeletons or skulls, this is a means of celebration and honor, not a costume for Halloween!