Día de los Muertos: Day of the Dead

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Despite the white faces and the skulls, it's not meant to be a spooky holiday. Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a three-day celebration, from October 31st until November 2nd, that honors the dead. Although marked throughout Latin America, Día de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. In fact, this tradition has expanded to Mexican-Americans in the U.S. and other countries.

Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life! Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.

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Here’s everything you need to know about it and how to celebrate this beautiful holiday:

 

  • When it’s celebrated

The official dates are November 1st -Día de los Angelitos, dedicated to deceased youth, but also celebrated as All Saints Day- and November 2nd, Día de los Difuntos, for adults. Some believe in beginning celebrations on the evening of October 31, proceeding to the graveyard where it is believed that the souls of young children rise at midnight. Families tend to make colorful altars in their homes in honor of their deceased loved ones, and the altars are decorated with flowers, candles, their loved one's favorite food and pan de muerto, a slightly sweet bread specifically made for this time. The festivities continue in the cemetery, where families bring picnics, play music and sometimes even spend the night as a way to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer on this earth.

 

  • It’s not Halloween

While death and spirits often inspire fear on Halloween, Día De Los Muertos celebrates and honors the dead instead. The tradition dates back to the Aztecs, who had a month-long celebration of death in honor of Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the underworld. Due to the intervention of the Catholic, Spanish Conquistadores, the celebration now coincides with All Saints’ and All Souls’ days.

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  • How it’s celebrated

During Día De Los Muertos, families visit cemeteries to hold vigils and bring ofrendas (offerings) to the deceased, such as flowers, candles and food. Parties are often held during the annual event, which can involve the entire community, and it is thought that spirits will bless those who honor their dead relatives with good luck, wisdom and protection. At home, families create altars and honor the dead with sweetbreads, the deceased’s favorite food, marigolds (the flower of death), freshwater, trinkets and sugar skulls—which are inscribed with the name of a deceased relative and eaten as a reminder of death being a sweet continuation of the cycle of life. Skulls are commonly associated with the tradition and are thought to date back to the pre-Hispanic era.

 

 

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