Dia de los Muertos – a Celebration of Life

Skeletons can be downright spooky unless you’re celebrating Dia de los Muertos in Mexico!

Held just after Halloween, Dia de los Muertos – or Day of the Dead — is akin to an enormous family reunion. This holiday stems from ancient Aztec traditions that celebrate and rejoice the lives of ancestors, and is a joyful time when relatives pay special tribute to the souls of the departed.

Every November 1 and 2 families throughout Mexico enjoy one of the liveliest and most colorful holiday celebrations. Day of the Dead is a time of immense cheerfulness, when families cook together and share humorous anecdotes of grandmothers and great grandfathers. It is a celebration marked with jubilant music, delicious food, life-sized skeletons and vibrant skull masks, graveyard parties and lots of laughter. This traditional holiday – celebrated throughout southern and central Mexico — is a huge family party that brings loved ones together in pueblos big and small to honor the spirits of the dead.

Festivals & celebrations to honor the dead

Dia de los Muertos is rooted in the belief that by celebrating their dead loved ones, families will be afforded protection by the spirits of their ancestors, who can also provide guidance and wisdom. Each family creates an elaborate candlelit alter, known as an ofrenda, which is adorned with fresh marigolds and the favored foods, drinks and trinkets of the deceased. The altars also contain items that were dear to the fallen relative, whether a musical instrument, a special photo or a book.  The ofrendas are also decorated with candied sugar skulls and folk-art skeleton replicas as a final touch.

On November 2, families make a pilgrimage to the local cemeteries where their relatives are buried with lots of food and libations in tow. There, they spend the day together, cleaning the tombstones and gravesite areas while singing songs, making toasts, playing music and speaking to the departed spirits of those who passed on. There are always plenty of homemade delicacies (including corn tortillas, mole, fruit, nuts and candies) at these gravesite parties, where plates of food are offered to ancestral spirits as well. Mexican families often take the opportunity to introduce a newborn child to grandparents or other ancestors who passed on before the birth.

Skeletons and skulls are some of the most ubiquitous symbols during Dia de Los Muertos. These mini cardboard or papier mache creations are usually playing musical instruments, singing, or doing other joyful activities that demonstrate a celebration and love of life.

Typical holiday foods during this Mexican holiday include slightly sweetened egg bread and sugared candies that are formed into the shapes of skulls and gifted to both the living and the dead.

Mexico Reservations

One Response to “Dia de los Muertos – a Celebration of Life”

  1. […] Dia de Los Muertos is truly a spectacle to witness and I wish we had been more prepared to celebrate it. We loved the decorations, masks and costumes which were intricate and colourful.  Locals travel to the cemeteries to sit and celebrate with loved ones that have passed on, making this a great way to experience authentic Mexican culture. Next time for sure. […]

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