Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (Spanish: Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures.
The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.
It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed.
The celebration takes place on November 1, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2).
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.
They also leave possessions of the deceased.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.
The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.
In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.
Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.
A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for “skeleton”), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead.
Sugar skulls as gifts can be given to both the living and the dead.
Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.
Jose Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure he called La Calavera Catrina («The Elegant Skull») as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female.
Posada’s striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catrina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances.
Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items can bring good luck.
Many people get tattoos or have dolls of the dead to carry with them.
They also clean their houses and prepare the favorite dishes of their deceased loved ones to place upon their altar or ofrenda.