Día de los Muertos (in English, “Day of the Day”) is a holiday celebrated yearly in Mexico and other Latin countries on November 1 and November 2 to honor and remember deceased friends and family members.
The history of Día de los Muertos goes back to central Mexico and the Aztec goddess Miclantecuhtl (“lady of the dead”). Her role was to guard the bones of the dead and govern over the festivals of the dead. The celebrations spread throughout Mexico and were observed in the summer until the 16th century
when they began to be associated with and take on traditions of the Christian celebrations of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). It was made a public holiday in Mexico as a unifying tradition.
In Día de los Muerto celebrations November 1 is known as Día de los innnocentes (Day of the Innocents or Holy Innocents), to remember children who have died in infancy. November 2 is the day to remember all who have passed away.
What are some traditions during these days?
There are many icons, images, and food associated with Day of the Dead. We’d like to share some common ones with you from the traditions of one of our owners, Adalberto.
Our ofrenda (or altar): Every year about a week before Día de los Muertos, we would build an altar in our house to honor our deceased family. We just had a few pictures, a sugar skull we bought with our family name printed on it, some bread (pan de muertos), and the traditional flowers, cempasuchil (marigolds).
Music: After we built the altar we were instructed to not make a lot of noise during the week as a sign of respect for the dead. If we had music, it was played softly and was favorite songs of the deceased.
Visiting the graves: Some people would take picnics or favorite foods of the dead to the places where they were buried. We went to clean the gravesites and pray for a little bit.
Calaveras: As I got older (author’s note: and more funny!), I started to write calaveras. These are funny poems about living friends or family that are related to death. Usually I write one big one with a line or two about each of my close friends.