Everything You Need To Know about Dia De los Muertos


Local altar at Plaza West Covina.

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), celebrated Nov. 1 and 2,  is not just candy skulls and papel picado. Celebrations kick off on Oct. 31 at midnight and continue until the second of November. Day of the Dead is an important tradition that is rich in history, dating back to pre-Columbian Mexico. 

In Mesoamerican times, the Aztecs believed death was the beginning of a journey towards Mictlan (where the dead rest). In order to receive eternal rest, an offer had to be made to Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacíhuatl, the King and Queen of the dead. Nowadays, the Day of the Dead is a holiday that celebrates the return of the souls of dead family members. The holiday signifies a day when dead and living family members are able to reunite. 

The Day of the Dead has evolved, and now the main symbol for the holiday is La Catrina. Printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada created La Catrina. The intention was to poke fun at Mexicans who imitated European style and mannerisms in an attempt to reject their indigeneity. It was a reminder that it didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, everyone ended up as skeletons anyway. 

While the holiday has evolved, there are still some core elements that remain. Families still lay out an altar for their late family members. They also place their photos on the altar, because without them, they will not be able to cross into the land of the living. The altar should also have pan de muerto, a special bread made for the Day of the Dead, water, and their favorite foods and drinks. Candles, sugar skulls, and papel picado are often used to decorate the altars. Cempasuchiles (marigolds), are also an important part of the altar. There should be a trail of cempasuchiles from the door to the altar, to guide the way for the dead.

It is a tradition to honor our dead and help us feel connected to them. So, gather your cempasuchil, pan de muerto, and your photos becaused Dia de los Muertos is quickly approaching.