What is Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, also known as Día de los Muertos, is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and by Mexican Americans and their descendants around the world. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember their deceased loved ones. It is a lively, colorful, and spiritual celebration that combines indigenous Aztec rituals with Spanish Catholicism.


The Day of the Dead has its roots in the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mesoamerica, particularly among the Aztecs. For the Aztecs, death was not an end but rather a continuation of life. They believed that the deceased would journey to Mictlan, the underworld, where they would reside until the next harvest season. During this time, families would offer food and gifts to their ancestors to help them on their journey.

After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, the Catholic Church attempted to suppress the Day of the Dead, seeing it as a pagan ritual. However, the holiday persisted, blending with Catholic traditions to create the unique celebration that is known today.


The Day of the Dead is typically celebrated over two days, November 1st and 2nd. Families will visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. They will bring ofrendas, or offerings, of food, drinks, and personal mementos. The ofrendas are meant to entice the spirits of the deceased to return home and join the family for the celebration.

Home altars are also set up in honor of the deceased. These altars are typically adorned with photos of the loved ones, candles, flowers, and cempasúchil, a type of marigold that is considered to be the flower of the dead.


Many symbols are associated with the Day of the Dead. The calavera, or skull, is a common motif. Skulls are seen as a reminder of the cycle of life and death, and they are often decorated with colorful designs and flowers.

The skeletal figures known as calacas are also popular symbols of the holiday. Calacas are often depicted in playful and humorous poses, reflecting the lighthearted nature of the celebration.


Food plays a central role in the Day of the Dead celebrations. Traditional foods such as pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, and calaveras de azúcar, or sugar skulls, are often prepared and shared with family and friends. These foods are meant to be offerings to the deceased, and they are also enjoyed by the living as a part of the festivities.


The Day of the Dead is a time for families to come together and remember their loved ones in a way that is both respectful and celebratory. It is a reminder that death is a natural part of life, and it is an opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away.