Día de los Muertos


Charlie Desnoyers, Staff Writer

As children get ready for Halloween— dressing up as ghosts, princesses, and superheroes— many Hispanics are preparing an altar for their passed loved ones. This commonly overlooked celebration is known as Day Of The Dead, or Día de los Muertos. It is a celebration of life and death. Although many people think of the passing of a loved one as a somber experience, Hispanics think of it as the spirit passing into a better place. The Day of the Dead starts October 31st and concludes November 2nd.

    This celebration is meant to show loved ones who have passed that their family still loves them. The first and most important thing in this celebration is the altar, also known as an ofrenda. An altar is believed to bring the dead back into the real world to enjoy a day with the living. The individual elements of the altar are designed for the loved one and include traditional decor, including incense, marigolds, food, “bread for the dead,” candles, possessions of the loved ones, and pictures, to name a few.

    The elements of the alter might seem random, but they all have a meaning and purpose. 

  • Incense: used to communicate with the spirit world.
  • Marigolds: petals are spread out to form a path and guide the spirit to the altar.
  • Food: typically the loved one’s favorite foods are presented. It is thought that when the food dries out, the spirit has visited and feasted on the meal.
  • Skulls (calavera): these are in the form of toys and puppets to show the inevitability of death in a less grim way.
  • Bread for the Dead: a sugary treat for the spirits.
  • Candles: represents fire and guides the spirit to the altar.

    While the altar is important, there are many more pieces to the celebration. On October 31st, the preparation day, families prepare for the feast, the party, and the altar. The feast, which is held the following day, may consist of tamales, mole negro, pan de muerto, blue corn enchiladas, and more. While the food is being prepared, the other family members are laying a path of marigolds to guide the spirit. Although October 31st may be a prep day, it is still important. 

       On November 1st, throughout the day,  families visit the altar freely and pray to their loved ones. The night of the 1st is reserved for the feast. This day is also for remembering the children who passed away, or “Little Angels”. On November 2nd, the families visit the cemetery and decorate the grave; often there is a Mariachi band playing in the distance and families may also bring food to the grave sight. 

      Día de los Muertos is not Halloween with scary costumes and candy; it is a day of tradition and remembrance.  If you wish to learn more about the amazing holiday, watch the Disney movie, Coco.  Although a cartoon, it is culturally informative and a great movie for all.