With the fall season comes a washing of orange and black. It also comes with skeletons and spooky ghosts — the darker side of people’s imaginations. Fall brings in cooler temperatures and the start of HALLOWTHANKSMAS. While some kick off the holiday season with trick-or-treating on Halloween, there are some who start off by celebrating a different holiday.
Nov. 1 starts the two-day celebration in Mexican and Latin American culture of El Día de los Muertos— or the Day of the Dead.
In modern Mexico and Mexican-American culture El Día de los Muertos coincides with the Catholic minor holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The result is a two-day celebration of life and those who have passed on. The practices of El Día de los Muertos started as a tradition passed from the indigenous people of Mexico and some Latin American countries. From Spain, a Catholic-Christian influence was brought to the region. This was combined with the ancient rituals to form a holiday that continues to evolve.
“They put up the ofrenda, which has representations of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water,” said Erinn Holloway, instructor of Spanish at Mississippi University for Women. “On the offering they put favorite foods of the person who is deceased, games that they like or things that were dear to them.”
For example, a loved one who enjoys coffee might have offerings of delicious dark roast left on the ofrenda for them. Someone who loves Raising Canes might be left an offering of the blessing that is Raising Canes’ sauce.
There are many other exciting ways to participate in the festivities of the Day of the Dead. Traditional foods include a pan dulce (sweet bread), decorated sugar skulls and the atole drink (a thick corn-based beverage). Papel picado— thin paper cut into intricate designs— is a decoration that is used to adorn the ofrenda in houses and decorate the streets. People visit the grave sites and clean and decorate their loved one’s graves.
El Día de los Muertos is spent rejoicing in the existence of life and celebrating with some of the greatest parts of the human experience—family, friends, food and fun.