The celebration of Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, dates back 3000 years to pre-hispanic Mexico. The holiday has since spread throughout the world, mingling with other other age-old traditions of honoring the dead. Dia de Muertos is a time of family, festivity and, primarily, a time to make offerings (or ofrendas) to our dearly departed out of love and remembrance.
Around the first and second days of November, it is believed that the souls of our loved ones return home to participate in the celebrations.
November 1st is known as Día de los Inocentes, and is dedicated to babies and children that have died. November 2nd is when deceased adults are honored.
Families gather around to set up altars for the dead, which consist of photographs of the departed, candles, water, flowers, food, and other colorful decorations. Common food offerings include Pan de Muerto (a sweet bread), mole, candied pumkpin, tamales, sugar skulls and fruit. It is believed that the dead imbibe the essence of the food, which is later eaten by the living.
I remember, as a child, helping my mother prepare food for the altar, arrange offerings for each deceased family member, place the flowers and light candles.
We would spend hours checking for any signs of the dead's presence. If the candle flickered, it meant they were with us. We’d keep a close eye on the food, usually the mole dish or the water glass, measuring to see if there was a bit less in the bowl; a clear sign that they had eaten and enjoyed the offering.
Some families go to the graveyard to celebrate through the night. They clean and decorate the graves, sometimes placing offerings on the headstones while singing and dancing around them.
Check out the British Museum's informative and engaging video below to learn more about this colorful celebration:
Do you celebrate Dia de Muertos? What is your favorite aspect of this time-honored holiday? Let us know in the comment section below.