Dia de los Muertos

Diana Hernandez-Vega, Author

El Día de los Muertos, also known in the United States as The Day of the Dead, is a two day celebration that is recognized by sharing a meal and welcoming back the souls of deceased relatives. 

Although the day of the dead is commonly associated with Halloween, they are not directly connected. On November 1st el dia de los angelitos (spirit of the children) is celebrated. On November 2nd, el dia de los difuntos (spirits of the adults) is celebrated and by noon all the spirits are commemorated together. On both of those days, ofrendas (offerings) are set up on altars and are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, pictures of the deceased, and their favorite foods and drinks.This is to welcome and aid the deceased in their long and extensive journey to their final resting place. The offerings are also believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departing souls hear their prayers, smell the food, and join the celebration of life. This day is unlike any other holiday because mourning is exchanged for celebration. 

On Día de los Muertos families will gather at cemeteries in the nighttime with lit candles and flowers at the burial sites.They also play festive music to celebrate the life they lived, rather than grieve it. With Día de los Muertos there are many components to showcase it. Calaveras (skulls) are consistently found everywhere during the Day of the Dead. They come in many shapes and sizes, but oftentimes they have a smile drawn on them to represent someone laughing at death. These skulls come in many forms such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most commonly as face paintings. Alongside the skulls there is La Catrina (a well dressed woman) and she is the face of the Day of the Dead. She represents that not even the rich can escape death. But finally, the marigold flowers are a big factor in the Día de los Muertos. They are thought to guide the spirits back with their intense color and pungent smell. They also symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. But, overall the preparations for this celebration of life are done weeks in advance with decorated altars, decorated burials sites, and home cooked meals. 

However, Mexicans are not the only ones who celebrate the Day of the Dead. It is widely celebrated in many cultures around the world. Many religions honor death by celebrating life. But, the Day of the Dead is unique for its traditions like la catrina,, the use of the calavera, and the festivals held on the streets. Although everyone celebrates the Day of the Dead differently, essentially they all have the same intentions with their unique altars and offerings.