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Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated on November 2. On this Day, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members. Therefore, many people celebrate this Day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones and setting up altars with their favorite foods, drinks, and photos. The Day of the Dead is observed on November 2 each year. It follows from All Hallows Eve on October 31 and The Day of the Children and All Saints Day on November 1.

History Of The Day Of The Dead

The ancient indigenous people of Mexico have practiced rituals celebrating the lives of past ancestors for around 3,000 years. The celebration, now known as the Day of the Dead, initially landed on the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and was observed for the entire month. However, in the 20th century, the month-long festivities were condensed to 3 days called The Days of the Dead: Halloween on October 31, Day of the Innocents on November 1, and Day of the Dead on November 2.

La Catrina is one of the most recognizable figures of Day of the Dead, a towering female skeleton with vibrant makeup and a flamboyant feathery hat. The Lady of Death, worshipped by the Aztecs, protected their departed loved ones, guiding them through the final stages of the life and death cycles. La Catrina, which we know today, came to be in the early 1900s by controversial and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada. Artist and husband of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, included José’s La Catrina in one of his murals which depicted 400 years of Mexican history. His mural, “Dreams of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park,” includes himself and a young child holding hands with La Catrina, dressed in sophisticated garb and a fancy feathered hat. 

Plans for the Day of the Dead are made throughout the year. For example, toys are offered to dead children, and bottles of alcohol or a lot get offered to dead adults. In addition, most families decorate their loved ones’ graves with ofrendas, which often include marigolds. It’s said that these specific flowers attract the souls of the dead to the offerings, and the bright petals and strong scent guide the souls from the cemetery to their family’s home.

Day Of The Dead Timeline

The 2015 James Bond movie: Spectre featured a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. Naturally, it was piquing public interest.

October 31 annually
Día de las Brujas
Halloween in Mexico: Día de las Brujas begins the Days of the Dead festivities.

November 1 annually
Día de los Inocentes
The Day of the Little Angels is dedicated to people who died as children.

November 2 annually
Día de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is the final and most famous Day of the three-day-long celebrations.

Day of The Dead Around The World

Day of the Dead Around the WorldCountryHolidayOccasionDate

China Ghost Festival This traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival is part of Ghost Month, during which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased relatives, come out of the lower realm. The 15th Day of the 7th month of the Lunar calendar, which is usually at some point during August.

Cambodia Pchum Ben (Ancestors Day) A religious occasion when the gates of hell are said to open up, and the souls walk among the living. People dress in all white and make food offerings. The 15th Day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar usually falls in September.

North and South Korea Chuseok Chuseok is a harvest festival, and comparisons are often drawn to Thanksgiving. It’s tradition for Koreans to visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects. Meaning “Autumn Eve,” the holiday is celebrated for three days straight, generally in either September or October.

Nepal Gaijatra Known as the “festival of the cows,” Gaijarta is a celebration of death. Its purpose is to help people accept death as a reality and to help ease the passing of those who have died. Each year cows, or children dressed as cows, walk in a procession throughout towns. The first Day of the dark four nights according to the lunar Nepa. This is usually in August or September.

Traditions

The main tradition for the Day of the Dead sees families gather to honor and remember their loved ones who are no longer with us. Celebrated as a sacred and joyous occasion, there is plenty of food, flowers, visits with family members, and nostalgic stories about those who have died.

Day of The Dead Faqs

What happens on the Day of the Dead?
Mexican tradition celebrates the Day of the Dead by offering goods to past loved ones and honoring their lives.

Do you say Happy Day of the Dead?
To greet people on the Day of the Dead, you can say “Feliz Día de los Muertos” or “Happy Day of the Dead.”

What is an ofrenda for Día de los Muertos?
An ofrenda is a collection of offerings and decorative objects placed on a ritual display during Day of the Dead celebrations.

How To Observe The Day Of The Dead

Take time to remember.
Pick a small area in your home (a table works well) and set up a candle, a photo of a loved one, and some flowers. It’s a simple act of remembrance.
Visit a community cemetery.
Many cemeteries are filled with festive sounds, smells, and imagery. Even if you don’t have an altar, stop by a local community event to experience the sights and sounds that fill this Day.
Host a Day of the Dead event at your home
This Day is meant to be celebrated with family and friends. Make a large dinner, ask people to bring a photo of a loved one who has passed away, and place all images on a table. During dinner, go around the table and have everyone say one fun memory about their loved one. The key is to keep it fun, cheerful, and festive.

Why The Day Of The Dead Is Important

You get to remember your loved ones.
While death can be a mournful experience, the Day of the Dead allows us to remember the happy memories of our loved ones.
Altars show respect for the dead.
Altars may come in different shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose, to show respect and honor a late loved one. This Day provides you a time to go through old photographs, letters, toys, and other items that may hold sentimental value.
Marigolds
The marigold is a delicate, yellow-orange flower that represents grief but is also bright enough to guide the spirits of dead ones back home.

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