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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!With some similarities to an American Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a festive celebration which survives from the early days of per-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 Saturday, October 31, 2020 and ends on Monday, November 2, 2020.

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.

How Day of the Dead began

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.

How Day of the Dead is celebrated today

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.

In pop culture, Day of the Dead was poignantly introduced to movie audiences worldwide in 2017 with the Disney'/Pixar animated film Coco.

The animated tale tells the story of a young Mexican musician who enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer, and to unlock the real story behind his family's history.

As they still say in Mexico, "Nobody truly dies unless they are forgotten".


Today, the otherwise celebratory atmosphere during Day of the Dead 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.

Sprays of bright orange cempasúchil (a type of marigold) adorn altars and tombs, with photos of the deceased prominently displayed.

Many Mexicans also still observe the tradition of offerings of the customary Pan de Muerto, a sweet cake. Deceased children (called los angelitos, or little angels) are also honored with new toys, while adults are brought their favorite food and drink to help vibrantly recall the special things that gave the deceased joy while they were still alive.

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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