What is Dia de los Muertos?

What is Dia de los Muertos?

Growing up in the US we always celebrated and decorated for Halloween. Tis the season for dressing up and trick or treating. I have fond memories of dressing up over the years and going to pumpkin patches, carving jack-o-lanterns and going on hay rides. I was never a fan of the scary costumes or haunted houses, but they had their place and so many people love the thrill of the fright!   
After moving to Mexico on Dia de Los Muertos 3 years ago, which also happens to be my youngest sons birthday, I learned about the wonderful holiday celebrated here, also known as Day of the Dead. This holiday is an amazing celebration of those that have gone before us. A way to show respects to them and honor their lives and the things they enjoyed.  
It is believed that at midnight on October 31st, Heaven opens up and the spirits of deceased children (angelitos) return to reunite with their families for 24 hours. Then on November 2nd, the adults spirits come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them by their family members here on Earth.
The festivities around this holiday are so full of life - while many see skeletons and skulls and think of halloween or items hot on trend, in Mexico when we see them as representation of loved ones that have gone before us. One image you may be familiar with, but never knew her story was Catrina. Catrina is a skeleton that was created by Jose Guadalupe Posada. She is dressed in a fancy hat that is a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Many women have their faces painted during this time to represent Catrina. The skull and skeleton figurines that have become mainstream were based on Catrina.
I recently returned from a trip to San Miguel de Allende, a magical town in Mexico, where they were gearing up for Dia de los Muertos festivities. The door frames and altars were adorned with beautiful marigolds. Marigolds are the official flower of Dia de los Muertos which are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Families build altars with candles, flowers, and their loved ones favorite foods at their grave-site to create an offering. Altars are also created at home with a picture of the deceased and are adorned with their favorite items; whether it's food, a bottle of tequila, or toys if they were a child at the time of death. It is believed the                                                      deceased can still enjoy these offerings. 

Pan de Muerto 
(bread of the dead) is another way of honoring loved ones. It is a sweet roll that is decorated with bone-shaped pieces to represent the deceased. The top is decorated with a single tear drop that represents tears for the living. It is circular in shape to portray the circle of life. Aside from bread, sugar skulls bearing the names of the deceased are often eaten by a relative or friend.

What a fun way to celebrate and honor those that have gone before us.  I love the meaning of this holiday and the celebrations around it... I hope you have the opportunity to experience this celebration in Mexico. 
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