As one of Mexico’s most popular holidays,Day of the Dead – or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish – has also become an internationally recognized celebration in many parts of the world. In Mexico,the beginning of the Day of the Dead holiday starts after Halloween each year on the 1st and 2nd of November.
The holiday is dedicated to spending time with loved ones and to praying for those who have passed on. In Mexico,Nov. 2 is a national holiday,so bank,schools and many other businesses are closed,so be sure to call ahead if you are headed out and about to ensure your destination is open.
Day of the Dead in Mexico also coincides with the Catholic holiday All Soul’s Day,and has a whole host of traditions that include building altars in the home to honor the departed,often decorated with sugar skulls,marigolds and the deceased persons’ possessions,favorite food and drink. These traditions can actually be traced back to the cultural practices of indigenous people in Mexico that date back many thousands of years,as well as to a popular ancient Aztec festival to honor the goddess Mictecacihuatl.
Today,Day of the Dead traditions are observed around the world,including Spain and Brazil,as well as other parts of Europe,Asia and Africa. In Mexico,it has become a mix of pre-Columbian teachings and Christian customs. The Aztecs believed that on this day life and death can co-exist and the dead can visit with the living,since they viewed death as merely a gateway to another world,where consciousness has ascended and the soul has experienced a rebirth to a higher state of being.
Since Mexico is predominantly Catholic,graveyards are intertwined in Day of the Dead traditions with powerful indigenous and Aztec symbols such as skulls. It is essential to treat the dead with respect during this time and to speak will of them throughout the celebration. Many people around the world have joined in the celebration by painting their faces as a traditional skull and in towns throughout Mexico there are plenty of local artists willing to help with that. In addition,many Mexican families will venture out to spend time in a graveyard during Dia de los Muertos,decorating graves of loved ones with flowers and other goodies such as calacas,which are dancing marionette skeletons.
In Mexico,the idea of “food for the soul” is taken quite literally during Day of the Dead celebrations and there are a variety of traditional foods enjoyed nationwide. This includes tortillas,known as the “bread of the dead” and Mexican chocolate caliente,which is - you guessed it - hot chocolate.