Have you ever wondered why every year around Halloween, depictions of white painted skeletons with colorful tattooed accents seem to appear everywhere?
They are typically seen wearing dresses with flowered headpieces or dressed as a Catrin. Not to mention, these painted skulls can be found on everything from home decor to stickers. It’s because these Mexican skulls (called calaveras) and skeletons (calacas) are prominent symbols of the annual Hispanic celebration Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Day of the Dead happens on November 1st and 2nd and is a holiday that is colorful, culturally rich, and filled with symbolic rituals. It is a sacred time for families and friends to demonstrate their devotion and pay their respects to loved ones who have passed on.
The exact origins of the Day of the Dead celebration are up for debate, but it’s thought to be a mash-up of ancient pre-Hispanic indigenous practices combined with the Catholic observance of All Saint’s Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2). The theme is death, yes, but Dia De Los Muertos is not the somber event you might think!
It turns out, festivals related to the dead don’t have to be sad. Many Mexican people believe the spirits of their deceased loved ones come back on these days and celebrate with them! This means, Day of the Dead is surprisingly, a joy-filled celebration where extravagant costumes, altars, parades, and dancing are all ways in which those still living honor the dead and welcome their spirits back (for a short visit). Some regions or families may be more low key in celebrating, but the spirit is usually the same --to honor the circle of life that connects us all.
Dia de Los Muertos is a festival full of meaning --and has become more popular around the world, so anyone can celebrate! The biggest Dia de Los Muertos celebrations are in Mexico, but U.S. cities with large Hispanic populations also host large events.
We want to share with you a few ways you can celebrate this beautiful tradition for Day of the Dead 2022.
Go to an event near you
If you can’t visit Mexico, that’s okay! You can google “Dia De Los Muertos event” to see a list of scheduled events in your area. There's festivities happening in most major U.S. cities.
Attend a parade if you can. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Ft. Lauderdale all have big events. Experiencing a rich cultural tradition will no doubt leave an impact.
Get ready for the festival
Also, if you want to wear the classic calvera look (aka the painted skull), there are tons of makeup tutorials online to show you how. The cool thing is, you can get as creative as you want with different colors, glitter, face tattoos, or rhinestones!
Visit the gravesite of a loved one or create an altar
Take part in the ceremony of it all by paying a visit to the cemetery to spruce up a loved one’s grave. Families traditionally pull weeds and remove debris from the area before washing the grave marker. Alternatively, you can set up an ofrenda or temporary altar with pictures and momentos.
At both, you can leave candles, flowers, (marigolds are traditionally used because their scent is said to attract the spirits), sugar skulls, and the favorite food and drink of the loved one.
Participate in traditional activities
Hang Papel picado, which means ‘punched paper.’ This colorful, designed paper is commonly strung for Day of the Dead, but is hung for other Mexican celebrations all year long.
Bake Pan de Muerto or “Bread of the Dead.” This sweet yeasty bread is flavored with orange and anise, is shaped like a bun, and is often decorated with bone-shaped dough pieces on top. It is eaten by loved ones and also left as an offering placed at the ofrenda.There is literally so much to learn about this rich tradition! Have you ever celebrated Day of the Dead, before? If so, where? Tell us about it!