Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the dead) is a Mexican holiday where the souls of the deceased are invited to reunite with their loved ones briefly. This brief reunion includes food, drink, gifts, and celebration. This holiday takes place from October 31-November 2. This holiday is dedicated to the dead and meant to recognize both life and death, exchanging mourning for honor and celebration.
The origin of the Day of the Dead goes back approximately 3,000 years ago. The rituals honoring the deceased are celebrated in Mexico and by those of Mexican heritage. The Aztecs, Mayans and other indigenous groups strongly believed that life has universal cycles full of transformation, one being death and its integral part of life. Upon death, a person travels to the Land of the Dead, where they go through years of challenges and journeys to reach their final resting place ultimately. This is where those that honor these rituals will provide food, drinks, and tools to aid the deceased in their journey. This practice inspired the tradition of leaving food and other offerings on loved ones' graves or altars during this holiday. These altars are called ofrendas; they are set up in the family's home to help the deceased's soul find its way to their family.
The belief on the Day of the Dead dissolves the barrier between the spirit and the natural world. During this time, the spirits awaken and return to our world to feast, drink, dance, and play music with their live relatives. The living treats the spirits as honored guests and welcomes them with a personalized ofrenda. Ofrendas are altars or shrines for the deceased made personally by their loved ones. These offerings are left to encourage the spirits to visit the real world as they hear the prayers of their loved ones, smell their favorite foods and enjoy the celebrations honoring their lives.
The first 24 hours of this holiday are dedicated to the spirits of children, Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), and begin at midnight on November 1st. Families of these little angels construct their altars to call the spirit back home. After the first day, the celebration shifts to the adult spirits, Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Deceased). This day is very similar to the night before, with offerings, memories, and laughter, just with a more mature theme. Those participating on this day join together to play games, listen to music, dance and reminisce on the lives and memories of the departed. This is also the day that all the spirits of the dead are publicly honored, making it a grand finale. The festivities usually include events or parades where all can come together in their cities in traditional attire and calavera face paintings to commemorate the holiday. Many also visit cemeteries and grave sites on the last day to clean the departed gravestone and decorate it with offerings.
These sacred days are dedicated to remembering the dead and their memories. It is a time to recognize life and death, exchanging mourning for honor and celebration. Many have experienced loss in life, but the belief that death is a part of the cycle of life is honored and held in the highest of respects. These days are essential for coming together and spreading love and jubilee to our loved ones, both in the real and spirit world.
"Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them." - George Eliot