El Dia De Los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead are celebrated on November 1 and 2 in Mexico, and because of their proximity to Halloween are often incorrectly referred to as a Mexican Halloween. But the truth is that the holidays are closer to Thanksgiving than a spooky Halloween!
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Spanish invaders took their All Souls Day remembrance of the departed with them to Mexico, and over time it was merged with the traditional Aztec custom of honoring the dead.
The Days of the Dead are a joyous celebration of loved ones who have died. Much like a big family reunion, members get together, eat, laugh, remember and tell stories about departed family members.
An altar, called an ofrenda, is created to welcome home the spirits of the dead. The ofrenda has foods, candles, pictures, flowers and some special items belonging to those who have passed that they enjoyed during their life, such as music, books, and things related to their special interests.
People spend time at the gravesides of their departed family members. They clean and decorate the tombstones with flowers and flags. They have a big picnic on the grave so that everyone can be together.
During the Dias de los Muertos there will be lots of depictions of skeletons, all dressed up and doing things that they enjoyed during their lives, such as walking the dog, baking bread and playing music. There are also lots of calveras, or skulls, ornately decorated with flowers and paint. These Catrina Calveras are ‘elegant skulls’ but remind us that underneath all the finery we are all skull and bone. Similarly, although the Day of the Dead festivities are happy occasions, the skeleton puppets and decorations amongst the crowds are a reminder that death is a part of life, and not to be feared.
Sugar skulls are a popular food during the holiday, as are pan de meurtos, a sweet bread made in the shape of skulls and bones.
A fun movie to watch during this holiday is Coco from Disney – you can check it out here!