Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is Celebrated in Mexico
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Día de los Muertos, also known as “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday celebrated in Mexico from November 1- 2. The first day celebrates the children that passed away and is often referred to as Día de los Angelitos, meaning “Day of the Little Angels” or All Saints Day. The second day which celebrates the adults is known as All Souls Day. On this holiday, families remember and celebrate their loved ones that have passed away. Although it is associated with the dead, it is not a morbid occasion but rather a happy and festive one. Families prepare for this annual holiday weeks in advance to ensure that the departed have everything they could possibly want and need.
Skeletons, skulls and marigolds are the main symbols of Day of the Dead. Marigolds are the official flower and are known as the “flower of the dead” because they only bloom for a few weeks in October. The gorgeous orange color and sweet smell of the flower is said to attract the souls of the dead. Skeletons and skulls of various sizes can be seen in windows, dancing in the streets, and as sugar sculptures.
Each year, the families build a special and private altar for the deceased that will include elements that symbolize earth, wind, water, and fire. How each element is displayed depends on the individual, but each altar always includes a container of water for the souls who traveled a long distance to be with their living relatives. Earth is represented by food because it is believed that the souls are fed by the aroma, wind is represented by a moving object such as tissue paper and fire is represented with a vast amount of candles. In addition, the altars include a mirror so that evil spirits won’t eat the food, a picture of the deceased at the highest point of the altar, and offerings that include favorite foods, pillows and blankets, toys for the children and alcohol for the adults.
Food is an important component of Día de los Muertos. “Pan de muerto”, moles, tamales, candied pumpkin and sugar skulls are just a few of the delicious items that are prepared. The delectable pan de muerto or “bread of the dead” is a soft sweet bread that is often made in the shape of a bun and decorated with pieces in the shape of bones. Food items such as moles and tamales are extremely popular because they are typically only made on special occasions. Sugar skulls, better known as “calaveras de azúcar,” are inscribed with name of the departed on the forehead and are decorated with icing to enhance the features of the skull. Calaveras are one of the main symbols because they represent the past ancestors of Mexico and are thought to be the source of energy.
Although different regions of Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos in various ways, the underlying theme remains the same. Some families choose to celebrate by cleaning and decorating the gravesites, bringing picnic items, and socialize with others. Other families choose to build a private altar in their homes. Some families do both. This holiday is a spectacular two-day event full of history and meaning.