The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos as it is known in Spanish, is a significant cultural and religious holiday celebrated in Mexico primarily in the central and southern parts of the country from 31 October to 2 November every year. The Day of the Dead is linked to the Catholic Church’s tradition of All Saints Day, also held on 1 November, and followed by All Souls Day on 2 November.
The three-day Day of the Dead festival is a celebration of life and death. It’s a special time of the year when Mexican families gather to honour and pray for their deceased ancestors with colourful and lively tributes.
Mexicans believe that their deceased relatives continue on a spiritual life journey and remain part of the family and local community in which they lived. Mourning the dead is considered an insult to them. Instead, Mexican families prefer to celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones with elaborate food, drink and festivities.
How is the Day of the Dead celebrated?
The Day of the Dead tradition says that the gates of heaven open at midnight each year on 31 October to allow the spirits or angels of all deceased children to reunite with their families for 24 hours. Families leave colourful toys and sweets out as offerings for the children’s spirits.
Then, on 2 November, the spirits of the adults are awakened to come down and join in the fun and festivities. These celebrations are usually held in local cemeteries where families leave offerings such as cigarettes and mezcal for the adults’ spirits.
Families spend time cleaning the grave areas of their loved ones, socialising, eating, listening to traditional Mexican music and reminiscing about their loved ones.
Why are their Skeletons and Skulls on the Day of the Dead?
There is no need to be scared of the skeletons and skull icons that adorn altars, homes and gravesites during the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. In fact they symbolise the spirits of loved ones having fun and enjoying life.
What to eat on Day of the Dead?
There is always plenty of Mexican holiday food to eat on Day of the Dead such as Mole, Tamales and traditional Pan de Muerto, a sweet and sugary bun that is eaten at the gravesite or altar of the deceased.
Check out this short animation which sums up Day of the Dead perfectly (and brought a tear to my eye)! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCQnUuq-TEE