The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is Mexico’s most famous holiday celebration. The annual event takes place on November 1st and 2nd and coincides with the Catholic holidays – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. The celebration remembers and honours loved ones who have passed, and it is considered to be a joyous time.
The Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and originated centuries ago. The day hounours pre-Hispanic indigenous and Spanish Catholic beliefs and is widely celebrated. Traditionally, November 1st honours dead children and infants, and November 2nd is the day for paying respect to deceased adults.
Many people around the world are drawn to the concept and imagery of the Mexican Day of the Dead, and the traditional continues to gain in popularity. The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Latin America, some parts of South America and the Caribbean. Many other countries celebrate their own version of the day that honours the dead.
As an important annual event a lot of time and money is invested in the paying of respects. Preparation can take days and weeks. The celebrations take place in both public and private spaces, and street parties, parades and festivals are commonplace. The most popular places to celebrate are the home and graveyards.
In the home the ritual involves creating altars to honor the deceased loved ones. Gifts are placed on the altar along with photographs, flowers and candles. At the graveyard, families tend to the graves of their departed and decorate them with candles, flowers, photographs and food and drink. All-night graveside vigils are held and stories about the deceased are shared.
Sugar skulls are a hugely popular symbol that represents the celebrations and rituals of the Day of the Dead, and are decorated with traditional folk art. Each colourful sugar skull represents a departed soul and their name is usually written on the forehead. The skull is then placed on the altar or gravestone to honour the return of the spirit.
The Day of the Dead is a joyous annual event that is celebrated out of love and commitment to loved ones. The day allows the dead to live again and during the two-day celebrations it is believed that the departed return to their loved ones on earth to rejoice. The celebration is a way of retaining a loving connection and of honouring the unseen world.
Mexican culture is rife with folk tales and myths and some of these stories warn about what happens if spirits of ancestors are neglected and forgotten on the Day of the Dead. Whilst the occasion is supposed to be joyous, some people celebrate this holiday out of superstition and fear that a neglected spirit will return and seek vengeance.
How To Honour Your Loved Ones
Remembering loved ones should be a joyous experience. Building an altar and decorating it with special mementos, photographs, flowers and candles allows you to have a special place where you can sit and recall memories and stories. This special place can be kept private or shared with family and friends of your dearly departed.