The True Meaning of Dia de los Muertos

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Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated from midnight on October 31st until November 2nd in Mexico, and it’s a day to remember and honor your dead loved ones. What makes Día de Los Muertos special and different is that it’s not a moment of sadness and loss, but a joyous celebration to remember and honor those friends and family members who have passed.

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The origins of the Dia de Los Muertos holiday date from 2500-3000 years ago when rituals commemorating the death of ancestors were held by numerous Indigenous nations (Aztec, Olmec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya, Totonac, and P’urhépecha) from what is now Mexico. Skulls were kept as trophies and its owners treasured them as they were symbols of death and rebirth.

People who celebrate Dia de Los Muertos today, believe that the gates of heaven open on October 31 at midnight, to let the spirits be reunited with their families, with the souls of deceased children arriving on the 31st, and adult spirits joining the party on November 2nd.

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Some of the ways people honor their dead loved ones is by setting up beautiful altars with pictures, lots of flowers and food, especially the spirit’s favorite dishes so they’ll feel welcome when they visit, much like you would do when someone you love comes to visit. Some people also go to gravesites and leave flowers in memory of the person they’re remembering.

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The great thing is that it’s such a different approach to death, making the event more joyous than spooky. There is an underlying message of humanness, reconnection, and celebration of life and love.

One of the traditions we love most about this Holiday is making Pan de Muerto, a delicious sweet bread baked specially for Dia de Los Muertos. We also love sugar skulls, that in keeping with the true spirit of Day of the Dead, are happy, with vibrant colors and are often smiling or laughing.

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This holiday isn’t observed by everybody in Mexico because, even when it has become a national symbol and is taught in schools across the country, there are many families that prefer to celebrate “Día de todos Los Santos” (All Saints Day) according to the catholic calendar. It’s also relevant to mention that in some parts (particularly along the Mexican-American border), there are more people every year that decide to celebrate Halloween too.

This worries some because they fear Mexican culture and heritage is being lost, while others claim that since Día de Los Muertos is, in essence, a syncretic holiday, it is possible that it can coexist with other similar festivities, without it losing its significance and history.

What do you think about this holiday? Do you plan to celebrate Día de los Muertos? Share and comment below!