Dia De Los Muertos


A crowd celebrating Dia de los Muertos

In the beginning of November, families celebrate the Day of the Dead. Sugar skulls and ofrendas abound, and bright flor de muerto, or yellow marigolds, lay all over. Although this holiday is centered around death, the night is filled with joy and celebration, for instead of just mourning the deceased, Dia de los Muertos is meant to honor them.

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead in English) is a holiday widely celebrated by Hispanic families all over the US and in Latin America. The holiday is meant to honor one’s ancestors and family members who have recently passed away. It is believed that the spirits of family members return to Earth once a year on the Day of the Dead. However, despite being a holiday about death, many of the celebrations attached to it are anything but grim.

“My favorite thing about Dia de los Muertos is remembering your loved ones,” Karolyn Hill, Spanish teacher at WPHS, said.

According to this article, Day of the Dead begins at midnight on November 1st, during an event known as Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), during which it is believed that the spirits of deceased children reunite with their families for 24 hours. This is often when ofrendas are constructed and offerings will be left for the spirits of children. Then, at midnight on November 2nd, Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Deceased) is celebrated, which honors the spirits of deceased adults. It is similar to Dia de los Angelitos, only the celebrations have more adult themes to them, like with tequila or pan de muerto. Finally, at noon on November 2nd, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated, which is the Day of All Spirits. People will often have Calavera painted faces (skeletons) and adorn graves with yellow marigolds and sugar skulls with the dead’s name on them.

There are many traditions relating to Dia de los Muertos that people may recognize; one common tradition is La Catrina. According to an online source, La Catrina was originally a satirization of upper-class women of the Porfiriato that eventually became an icon of the Day of the Dead. People will dress as Catrinas or make Catrinas in the image of a famous person to celebrate.


The original “La Catrina” drawing

Another tradition is ofrendas, or altars. Families of the deceased will place offerings on these ofrendas for the spirits to enjoy. Usually, to make an ofrenda, an oilcloth is placed atop a table, along with pictures of a departed loved one and their personal belongings. The lower portion of the altar is often where offerings are placed.

“Most schools now celebrate Day of the Dead; you can bring pictures of your deceased family and place them on the altar to honor them,” Hill said. “Bringing pictures of the deceased is a common tradition.”

An ofrenda

Many people also put on costumes, painting their faces and dressing as skeletons, as a sort of affront to death. They acknowledge the mortality of life, but instead of wearing grim costumes, they often resemble happy, smiling skeletons, as if to laugh at death.

Dia de los Muertos is a wonderful celebration filled with nights of togetherness and joy, honoring the dead and spending time with loved ones while they are still here- or while they return for just one night a year.