Why Do We Celebrate the Day of the Dead?
As Americans are gearing up to celebrate Halloween, Mexicans are celebrating a very different type of holiday, called the Day of the Dead. On this day, they remember their loved ones who are no longer with them. You may know this multi-day celebration by its Catholic name of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. But what is the Day of the Dead, and what happens on that day?
What Is the Day of the Dead?
Día de Muertos is the Spanish term for Day of the Dead. It’s a holiday that’s celebrated throughout Mexico, especially in the Central and Southern regions. But people of Mexican ancestry celebrate this holiday all over the world, especially in the United States. Technically, it’s a celebration that takes place over several days, during which family and friends gather together to pray for loved ones who have died. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a public holiday, but it is also celebrated throughout the Catholic world as All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day.
What Happens on the Day of the Dead?
This holiday is all about traditions, which included building private altars called ofrendas. The deceased were honored with calaveras or sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at their grave site.
Surprising Facts about This Holiday
In the 16th century, before the Spanish colonized the Americas, the Day of the Dead was celebrated at the beginning of summer. However, it is now associated with October 31st, November 1st, and November 2nd to coincide with Western traditions. In the Western World, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day are celebrated at the beginning of November, and the Day of the Dead is now celebrated at the same time.
The Day of the Dead dates back hundreds of years to the Aztecs, but it has now been spread throughout the world. Other societies have similar observances to honor the dead. November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes or Day of the Innocents, on which dead children and infants are honored. Sometimes it’s referred to as Día de los Angelitos or Day of the Little Angels. Deceased adults are remembered on November 2nd, which is officially the Day of the Dead.
Celebration of the Day of the Dead in the USA
Day of the Dead celebrations are very similar in the USA, especially in communities with Mexican residents. In several states, the celebrations are very traditional. This includes Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. For example, Tucson, Arizona, has held an All Soul’s Procession every year since 1990. During these processions, people carry signs honoring the dead. They’ll also have an urn in which people can leave paper with prayers on them. In San Diego, California, there is even a two-day celebration, which ends in a candlelight procession to the El Campo Santo Cemetery.
Favorite Foods for the Day of the Dead
Food belongs to every celebration, even this one. During traditional celebrations, there are food vendors offering different dishes to the crowds. Here are some examples of popular Mexican food items to celebrate this day.
Pan de muerto – This is a type of sweet roll, which is soft bread shaped like a bun. It’s topped with sugar and bone-shaped phalanges pieces. The bones represent the dead, and the baked goods may also include a baked tear drop to represent the tears for the living. Traditionally, pan de muerto is eaten at the graveside or the alter of the deceased.
Flambre – This is a traditional salad that is served cold. It can include more than 50 different ingredients.
Atole – This is a warm, thick drink, specifically prepared for this day. There is also a chocolate version of this called champurrado, which is especially popular during the celebrations.
It is also a tradition to eat the favorite foods of the loved ones as well as to enjoy the beverages they liked best. This makes the celebration very personal for everyone as they’re remembering the people who are no longer with them.
Learning more about this Mexican tradition may make you appreciate the delicious dishes that are served on that day. But you don’t have to wait until the Day of the Dead to enjoy good Mexican food, because we prepare that in our kitchens every day of the week, using fresh, traditional ingredients