Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico
Author: Greta Gonzalez
That’s right, it is a celebration! In this photo essay, you will see the joy in the bright, colorful detail. Explore the Mexican holiday known as Dia de los Muertos from the mindset of the locals, who continue this ancient and joyous tradition of honoring each of their departed friends and family members.
Dia de los Muertos simply celebrates the beauty of life and death, its purpose is to remember, celebrate and honor all the loved ones who have died.
Early in the week, the townspeople of San Miguel de Allende begin preparations. Flower vendors set up all over the town. Papel picado, or pierced paper flags are strung above the streets. This delicate folkart represents the wind and the fragility of life. The doorway arches are lined with marigolds. This bright and cheery flower is iconic in use at the altars to guide the spirits to their loved ones during Dia de los Muertos.
“Tapetes” or rugs are made by artisans using colored sawdust, flowers, corn, and other organic materials.
Bakeries and markets sell sugar skulls and other decorations for the gravesites or home altars called “ofrendas.” The sugar skulls represent each departed soul, and might have a loved one’s name written on the forehead. Many skulls and skeletons are shown dancing, playing games or singing with big happy smiles and adorned with colorful icing and glitter.
As the day approaches, there are evening serenades by mariachis, candle-lit ofrendas and fireworks. The families tell stories of their loved ones around the candlelit graves. They are comforted knowing that death is a continuation of life. The celebration actually lasts several days, with a day for each of the following: those who died over 10 years ago, those who died more recently, and a day for children and unborn babies. These altars and offerings are designed to help guide the spirits back.
The giant skeleton figures around the village are dressed and posed doing silly things like dancing or playing the guitar, they are not meant to be scary. Dia de los Muertos simply celebrates the beauty of life and death, its purpose is to remember, celebrate and honor all the loved ones who have died.
One gentleman explained that he had placed coffee on his altar for his mother, and a Coke for his dad, along with beans and rice and a sugar lamb in pink and blue representing their catholic faith. His altar was so mesmerizing in the setting of an antique shop along the village streets.
The combination of mariachis, parades, music, fireworks, food, and bright, colorful artwork and flowers create such a celebratory atmosphere.
This year, Day of the Dead begins on Saturday, October 31 and ends on Monday, November 2. This year, when you see images of sugar skulls, imagine the tradition of love and respect that they represent. Day of the Dead originated thousands of years ago. Every town and region in Mexico has developed their own traditions. Give it a try! Hold a celebration for your loved one with all their favorite foods, clothes & toys, light some candles or incense, dress in bright colors and tell their stories, read poems and sing songs. As we say in TAPS, “remember the love, celebrate the life, share the journey.”