By Emilie Chau
Synonymous with the colorful sugar skull, Day of the Dead, known as Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico on Nov. 2 to honor deceased loved ones. It is also a way to contact the spirits of the dead and remind them that they are still loved and unforgotten. Although physically separated, people can still connect with their loved family members.
The holiday stems from ancient traditions in Mexico from the pre-Columbian era, and those ancient rituals have been around for several thousand years. When Europeans came to North America, they blended their Roman Catholic holiday of All Saints Day with the natives’ tradition and created Day of the Dead.
Those who celebrate this holiday all have different traditions or customs that they do on Day of the Dead.
“One of my aunts or uncles will collect money for the flowers so they could take more flowers to the cemetery,” says Spanish teacher Claire Gonzalez on one of the traditions her family does for Day of the Dead.
“We make a special bread called pan de muertos,” says Spanish teacher Sergio Reyes.
There are many common traditions that people do, such as decorating the cemetery–typically with marigold flowers, known as cempasúchil in Spanish, have picnic at the cemetery, decorate altars in the homes with the favorite food or trinkets that the deceased loved along with colorful sugar skulls and tell stories of the deceased.
Cemeteries become colorful with the festive decorations and candlelit scenery.
To prepare, many people make or order the food in advance, collect donations for flowers or candles and purchase decorations for the altars.
When remembering loved ones, it isn’t in a sad or somber manner; it is in a joyous and happy way that celebrates the life they lived. By telling funny stories or anecdotes, one is able to remember how the person was when he or she was alive.