By Janelle Perez
Costumes, candies and spooks is not what Day of the Dead is about. Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, is oftentimes confused with Halloween. Although Day of the Dead starts on Halloween, the former holiday is about celebrating life.
Day of the Dead originates from Mexico. The Aztecs used this day to honor their queen of the underworld through a big festival in their community. Current day celebrations primarily take place in Mexico and are celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 all over the world.
People who celebrate the holiday are typically those who wish to honor their loved ones who have passed. Day of the Dead is about honoring the life that the dead once lived, not to mourn the loss of their loved ones. However, the holiday is not for everyone. It varies from what a person’s beliefs are to what a person may feel is honorable and respectful.
A traditional Day of the Dead celebration includes an altar with pictures and ofrendas (offerings), marigolds to guide the spirits home and a sugar skulls used to decorate the altar. An altar can either be small or big. Smaller altars are oftentimes seen in places where the holiday is not as big, like in the United States.
In Mexico, people gather together a couple of days before the celebration and head over to the graves of their loved ones. They spend their time sweeping their areas and decorating with bright papel picado and ceramic skulls decorated with intricate designs.
A simple altar can include pictures of the loved ones being celebrated and the infamous pan de muerto, which quite literally translates to bread of the dead. Pan de muerto represents the bones of the dead in a delicious way. The preparation of the decorations and food all leads up to the final celebration day.
The big celebration day is held on Nov. 2. At this point, altars and decorations have been up for two days and every celebrator has been anticipating the final day. In Mexico it is accustomed to throw a big party at the graveyard with music and food. It is said that the spirits travel to Earth on this day and celebrate with their families, which is why marigolds are used as a way to guide them down to the graveyards. During the celebration, people tell stories and remember happy times spent with those who are no longer with them.
On Day of the Dead, life is celebrated through bright traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. ◆