5 Things to Know About the Day of the Dead
November 1 and 2 marks the celebration of the Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos, a traditionally Mexican holiday focused on the remembrance of friends and family who have died. Although the holiday is particularly a Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead is observed by many cultures throughout the world. The colorful and festive holiday is celebrated with family and friends in remembrance of their loved ones who have died.
In honor of the holiday, check out these quick facts about the Day of the Dead.
1. The tradition goes way, way back.
The origins of Day of the Dead is believed to date as far back as 3,000 years ago. It is believed to have developed from an ancient festival of the Aztecs that was dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl, the queen of the Underworld. Rituals celebrated the deaths of ancestors and lasted for an entire month during the time of corn harvest.
2. It coincides with the Catholic holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
When Spanish conquistadores brought Catholicism to Latin America, it resulted in a combination of the beliefs between the ancient holiday of the indigenous people and the Catholic traditions of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which take place on November 1 and 2.
3. For some, the holiday begins on October 31.
The celebration of the holiday varies across different regions. For some, it begins on the night of All Hallows Eve, when the souls of young children are allowed to return. Typically, the holiday is celebrated over to days, November 1, the Day of the Innocents, to honor deceased children, and on November 2, the Day of the Dead, to honor deceased adults. Families will go to the cemetery to decorate the graves of their relatives and celebrate with food, flowers and candy.
4. It is believed that during this time the spirit of loved ones are allowed to join their living relatives.
Image; Eneas de Troya, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
In preparation of this spiritual reunion, families will visit cemeteries and together, clean and decorate the graves of their relatives to invite their spirits to come and visit. The graves of children are often decorated with toys and skull candies made of sugar, while the graves of adults are often adorned with their favorite foods and possessions. Marigolds and candles are also traditionally used to decorate graves and alters.
5. It is a celebration of life.
Image: Rodsj29, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
Despite the morbid yet colorful imagery of skulls, the holiday is a joyous celebration of life. Elaborate homemade alters with food and drinks are a traditional fixture at home, so families can pray for the souls of their deceased relatives. During this time, families and friends come together for festivities with music and lots of food, and share amusing stories and anecdotes in a true celebration of life.