The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, begins on Wednesday, October 31 and ends on Friday, November 2. The Day of the Dead is not a Mexican version of Halloween. The two annual events differ greatly in tradition and spirit. The multi-day holiday is an opportunity for families and friends to gather, pray for, honor, celebrate, and remember friends and family members who have died. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, locals put on makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.
Here are the essential things you should know about The Day of the Dead, Mexico’s most colorful annual event:
- A celebration of life and death. While the holiday originated in Mexico, it is celebrated all over Latin America.
- November 1 is believed to be when children who have passed can return to be with their families for 24 hours, while on November 2 the adults who have died are honored.
- The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes and cemeteries with specific items that carry meaning. Meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living.
- Decorated sugar skulls are a particularly unique Day of the Dead tradition. The molded sugar skulls are meant to represent the life and individuality of the departed.
- A time of joyous celebration, not sadness or mourning.
- Marigolds are known as the flower of the dead. They’re used in alter decorations and placed on the graves of the departed. The fragrance of the Marigolds is supposed to lead the spirits home.
- The bread, known as pan de muerto, is baked and eaten on the Day of the Dead. The bread is sweet and is often decorated with strips of dough resembling bone or shaped like a skull and decorated. The bones, arranged in a circle, symbolize the circle of life and tiny dough teardrops symbolize sorrow.