Throughout time and across the world, cultures have found unique ways of dealing with the loss of a loved one. In Mexico, people celebrate Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It’s not necessarily a sad moment either. If anything, it’s a colorful celebration dedicated to the dearly departed in that country. And although the festival has evolved over the years, it’s still a major event in Mexico. So, although Halloween is behind us, there’s still time to get into the spirit of things for Dia de los Muertos. But in case you’re wondering how, here’s the way most Mexicans celebrate this very important holiday.

Dia de los Muertos honors the dead every single year on October 31, November 1, and November 2.

November 1 is dedicated to deceased children on the Day of the Innocents (Dia de los Inocentes) or Day of the Little Angels (Dia de los Angelitos). Then, on November 2, adults are honored. But the entire celebration is a three-day event that can’t be missed.

The Day of the Dead is traced back to Pre-Columbian Mexico between the years 1300 and 1521.

The Aztec Empire was in power and they considered it rude to mourn the loss of those who had crossed over. So, they came up with a month-long celebration that allowed the deceased to pay the living a visit while also paying tribute to “The Lady of the Dead.”

On Day of the Dead, Mexicans will paint their faces to look like decorative Calaveras or skeletons.

Some people even add flowers to their hair or wear big hats to accentuate the look. This tradition has inspired a number of Halloween costumes in the States, as well as other contemporary cultures beyond the border.

Mexican people also celebrate by creating flag-like artwork known as papel picado or chiseled paper.

In the Pre-Columbian era, people made these out of trees, because the Aztecs were total bosses when it came time to adorning religious sites. But tody, this type of folk art is made out of technicolor tissue paper.

Every region in Mexico has their way of celebrating the Day of the Dead, but there are some similarities.

The celebration will often involve the creation of an altar, where family members, friends, or participants can add food, skeletons, and other trinkets. But these altars aren’t just for decoration. They provide a bridge that allows the dearly departed souls to make their way back to the world of the living.

Another staple of the Day of the Dead decoration includes these small color skulls that adorn the area.

The Calaveras are made out of molded sugar paste. They’re often decorated with spiderwebs or flowers, and they have the names of a deceased person written in icing or foil. Some people will even add feathers, beads, or other forms of adornments.

Pan de muerto is known as the Bread of the Dead, but it doesn’t taste as bad as the name might suggest.

It’s actually a sweet roll, often decorated with skeletons. Orange zest and anise seeds are used to flavor the bread. But while the living are the ones who consume the bread, many believe that the spirits are able to absorb the tasty essence of the bread as well.

Mexicans know how to put the spirit in spirited drinks like Tequila, Mezcal, and the popular Pulque.

Locals make Pulque out of fermented agave sap. But other alcoholic beverages are available as well. And like the Bread of the Dead, spirited drinks are offered to put the spirits at ease so they can enjoy the festivities. But of course, the living can definitely join in on the fun too.

The ritual altar is a very important piece for the Day of the Dead, but so is the oh-so popular ofrenda.

An ofrenda or offering is placed on the altar. This often includes things like food. On the Day of the Dead, you’ll find altars in homes, churches and cemeteries full of ofrendas. Each will have their own artistic touch.

One of the most important things about the ritual altars are the photographs of those who passed.

While most families choose to put photos of their human family members, they can put photos of just about anyone including a friend, a deceased celebrity, or a pet. That way, everyone on both sides can get en epic reunion during the three-day holiday.

The altars may include photos and candles, but it’s the ofrendas that keep a spirit’s needs satiated.

It truly is a celebration of the spirits who come and visit their loved ones. Not only do they get to visit the world of the living, but they’ll get a taste of what they’ve been missing since they passed away. It’s not a bad way to vacay before heading back to the underworld.

The food and the photos aren’t simply placed on the ritual altars to look pretty, but to guide the spirits.

Aside from the items we’ve talked about already, Mexicans will add candles to help light the way for wayward spirits. Some folks will even place the candles in a cross formation to orient them towards the altar. But in most cases, the decorative patterns are random.

Anyone can get into the spirit and celebrate the Day of the Dead, but don’t you dare call it Halloween.

Halloween is all about mischief and horror, which is the total opposite of Dia de los Muertos, which celebrates the dead with colors, parades, songs and dancing. The ritual is a symbolic way to love and respect family members who have passed on.

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