Dia de los Muertos is an uplifting celebration

Photo courtesy of Jose Sepulveda

By Mariyah Ramirez

The Day of the Dead (el Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday where families reunite with the spirits of their deceased loved ones. These souls are met with a celebration which includes lots of food, drinks, and the deceased’s favorite things.

It is celebrated on both November 1 and November 2. According to tradition, the gates of heaven open at midnight on October 31. Then, on the first day, celebrants honor infants and children who passed away. On the second day, families and friends honor the adults that have passed away.

Dia de Los Muertos originated 3,000 year ago. At that time, Aztecs and other tribes living in what is now known as Central Mexico viewed death as a new beginning of life. They believed that the souls would travel to Chicunamitclan, the land of the Dead, where they would face horrifically challenging levels to finally reach Mictlan, the final resting place.

In Nahua traditions, family members provide water, food, and other things to help the deceased on their difficult journey.

This inspired the modern Day of the Dead practice in which families leave food and other offerings on their loved one’s graves. Offerings are also placed on ofrendas, altars to the deceased that are traditionally made at home with pictures, candles, and flowers.

Marigolds are often incorporated in Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. They’re bright orange and yellow flowers used to guide souls from their burial homes to their families home. According to tradition, their bright colors and strong fragrance attract the souls to either their graves or to the ofrendas.

Skulls are also a popular element of Dia De Los Muertos as they represent loved ones who have passed away. While in many cultures, skulls are morbid, in Mexican culture, they are bright and colorful. This highlights the uplifting nature of Day of the Dead, rather than being a time of grief.
Dia De los Muertos is so important to Mexican culture because ancient Mexicans celebrated the lives of those who passed and honored their memories.

Instead of grieving, there’s a positive outlook in which it is believed that the spirits can leave the spirit realm and visit their families in the mortal world.