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MAIN Arrow to Home Life - Holidays Holidays Arrow to Dia de los Muertos Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead!Similar to an American Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a festive celebration which survives from the early days of pre-Christianity.

When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, the festival was incorporated into the Catholic All Souls Day and All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1 and November 2.

This year, Day of the Dead observances are celebrated beginning on the evening of Wednesday, October 31, 2018 and ends on Friday, November 2, 2018.

Children are remembered on the Day of the Innocents ("Día de los Inocentes") on November 1, followed by other loved ones who are counted among the dearly departed on November 2, the Day of the Dead.

In ancient Mexico, rituals celebrating the lives of dead ancestors had been performed by Mesoamerican civilizations for at least 3,000 years. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the "Lady of the Dead". It was common practice to skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival began in early August and was celebrated for the entire month.

pan de muertos for day of the dead
Pan de Muerto or "Bread of the Dead", is a popular
seller in Mexican bakeries to celebrate the day.

One particular tradition that lives on today is a recipe for sugar skulls, which are brightly decorated and served up by Day of the Dead devotees and party hosts with ghoulish glee. Local bakeries also feature special breads and cakes in playful shapes of skulls to serve as holiday treats.

The celebratory atmosphere is in stark contrast to the serious custom of honoring relatives and loved ones who have passed on, with traditions that include building home altars to honor the dead. Graves of relatives are also cleaned and decorated for the occasion.

In pop culture, Day of the Dead was poignantly introduced to movie audiences worldwide in 2017 with the Disney'/Pixar animated film Coco, which told the story of a young Mexican musician who enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.

In modern-day Mexico, lans for the Day of the Dead festival are made weeks ahead, including gathering the goods that will be offered to the dead.

Offerings are made of the customary Pan de Muerto, a sweet cake, and sprays of bright orange cempasúchil (a type of marigold) may adorn altars and tombs.  Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels) while adults are honored with bottles of tequila or mezcal.

also see -> Cinco de Mayo | Las Posadas | Mexican Independence Day

More about Day of the Dead around the Web:

Just up ahead, check out more traditions old and new online - as Dia de los Muertos comes alive and kicking in outstanding photo galleries, folk art exhibits, e-cards, video clips, history, craft ideas, recipes and trivia... | Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos - No bones about it, this is the best resource on the topic with hours of online fun featuring how-to videos, crafts, history and traditions, recipes, random trivia, a photo gallery and student-teacher resources.

Food for the Ancestors - The late, great, but still-archived PBS special offers a good history of the observance including a folk art gallery, information and photos on the current festival, video clips, and recipes for pozole, (pigs head and corn grits) salsa borracha (drunken sauce) and salsa de gusanos de maguey (worm sauce).

Mexican Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos - Check out Day of the Dead central, including an extensive cache of articles and photo essays on the altar to the dead, candlelight vigils, gravesite ceremonies, folk art, activities and traditions.

MEXonline: Day of the Dead Holiday - Here's a good overview with feature stories chronicling the history and traditions of Dia de los Muertos, where to find the best locations for authentic ceremonies, a special report from Oaxaca, and related resources.

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