"Dia de los Muertos" is upon us..one of my favorite Latin holidays to celebrate
(Article originally posted on www.latinbusinesstoday.com where I live and work as Director of Community Relations)
The makeup of “La Catrina” has become associated with images of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Printmaker, illustrator and lithographer, Jose Guadalupe Posada is credited with creating the original look around 1910-1913
The Mexican holiday, Dia de Los Muertos, is a time to honor the dead. It is a celebration of both life and death because traditions include not only happy festivals and parades to celebrate, but family gatherings at cemeteries to pray and show respect for their deceased loved ones. Typically lasting from October 31st to November 2nd, it has become widely celebrated outside of traditional Latin countries.
The holiday has many traditions, one being the building of a private alter called an ofrenda to pay homage to the deceased. These altars are covered with candles, and flowers such as traditional marigolds, as well as images of the deceased, and some of their favorite foods. Visitors can leave gifts at the altars to pay their respects. Part of the tradition during Dia de Los Muertos is to tidy up the graveyard site around the deceased's headstone and to make sure to leave behind the before mentioned marigolds for decor. Graveyards contrary to what we typically think of, actually take on a festive atmosphere celebrating both life and death, turning the event into a social gathering.
An "ofrenda" with photos of the deceased and some of their favorite foods like pan dulce and enchiladas
The Mexican marigold is synonymous with Day of the Dead
Mexicans believe that the Mexican marigold guides their loved one’s soul back to the world of the living, Because it typically flowers during the rainy season which occurs before Day of the Dead, it has now become associated with the festivities of this holiday.
Sugar skulls are also part of the tradition of Day of the Dead
Sugar skulls are also synonymous with Day of the Dead. Sugar skulls are either bought or made by families to add to their altar, and the name of the deceased is typically written in icing on the forehead. In addition to the traditional sugar versions, you can also get chocolate and biscuit ‘sugar skulls’ during this period.
Beautifully decorated cookies with the image of "La Catarina"
Another food associated with the holiday are tamales. My family loves making them by the dozens. It's such a time consuming tradition that by nature it becomes a family gathering to enjoy the process and chat.
Because you might work up quite a hunger and thirst traveling from the spirit world to the world of the living, food is such a big part of the holiday. Mexicans' believe this so much that is why food is placed on the ofrenda.
Calabaza en tacha is a traditional sweet associated with the holiday. It is basically candied pumpkin, cooked in brown sugar cane syrup.
Pan de Muerto also called dead bread is the traditional bread of the holiday
Pan de Muerto is a sweet roll traditionally baked in Mexico leading up to the actual Day of the Dead. It is a sweetened soft bread often decorated with bone like shapes and eaten on the holiday or placed at the ofrenda.
And one of the beverages closely associated with the holiday is Mexican hot chocolate. It is commonly enjoyed at the celebration and is a great way to warm up during cold November nights!
Day of the Dead is actually a very festive holiday as it reminds us to share amusing anecdotes and memories about the deceased. This stems from the idea that the deceased would rather not be remembered somberly, but cheerfully. This is something that is not common in other countries because death is such a highly sensitive subject. It is much more widely recognized in Mexican and other Latin cultures because there is such a history of oral tradition in our cultures; it is how we tend to share our culture and traditions.
So during this holiday, make sure to remember some of the people who are important to you and who have brought you joy, who have now passed from this world on to the next and enjoy the memories that they gave you. It's what this holiday is all about!
My father enjoying a celebration in Mexico with some Day of the Dead revelers