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Día De Muertos: A Homecoming Party!

Día De Muertos: A Homecoming Party!

At midnight, as distant church bells announce the arrival of November, a hauntingly beautiful scene plays out on the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake, a couple of hundred miles west of Mexico City. Scores of indigenous people converge from the countryside in canoes that dot the surface of the lake. A single candle burns in the bow of each lake, flickering gently in the calm wind, and casting a soul-stirring glow over the water. For much of the world, it is the night of Halloween, a time to remember the souls of the departed. In Mexico however, the dead are not merely remembered, but welcomed again to the land of the living. It is a festival of homecoming. And Día De Muertos is widely celebrated in many different ways across the country.


Men's sugar skull ring

With Dia De Muertos right around the corner, it's the perfect time to get this Calavera ring!


The festival of the Dead may sound like a macabre title to some, but it is from it. It rather eschews much of the somber veneration of the departed and sinister fear of their powers in favor of celebration! To the pre-Hispanic Aztec, Toltec and Nahual people, mourning the dead was, in fact, considered disrespectful. In this indigenous American worldview, the dead were treated as departed members of the community, returning to their home for a vacation with the family. Of course, the advent of Christianity has profoundly altered native celebrations, with the resultant celebration a rich syncretic festival where both worlds meet. It is important to note, however, that the Day of the Dead is not merely a Mexican variation of Halloween, but very much its own festival, with just as much of a rich tradition behind it.


Sugar Skull

Looking for the perfect Dia De Muertos decoration? Look no further!


As November draws closer, Mexicans begin to prepare calaveras, brightly decorated skulls made of sugar or clay, frequently adorned with icing, beads or feathers, to be served as part of their offerings to their departed companions and ancestors. Calaveras are perhaps the most recognizable aspect of Día De Muertos, but at the heart of the festival lie these offerings. Called ofrendas in Spanish, these typically consist altars set up as a welcome package for the guest who has come to revisit. True to the spirit of Dia De Muertos, they are meant to celebrate and honor, rather than to worship. The alter would be covered in an oilcloth and loaded with the guest's favourite food, traditional Mexican cuisine, water, personal belongings, and various other offerings. 


Dia De Muertos Costume

Celebrate Dia De Muertos and do it with style!


José Guadalupe Posada's etching of Le Calavera Catrina, or the elegant skull, has become a mainstay of the celebrations, and a symbol of its tongue-in-cheek levity. Todos somos calaveras,” Posada once commented, stating that we are all skeletons. Catrina, Posada's muse of death, is a satirical observation of early 20th century Mexico's fascination with European sophistication, and a reminder to us all that to us all to loosen up, enjoy what life has to offer, and not be caught up in the trappings of appearances and form. Death is, after all, truly democratic. Today, public celebrations are often dedicated to Catrina, a successor of the native practice of dedicated celebrations to the Goddess of the Dead.


Day of the Dead wall tapestry

Get into the celebratory mood with this festive wall tapestry!


Celebrations are also marked with literary calaveras, short irreverent quips and poems that target the living. Ofrendas would include pan de muerto, or the bread of the dead, a sweet bread featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls fashioned out of dough. Pulque, fermented from agave sap, may be served as an accompanying drink. The use of papel picado, or pierced paper, is not exclusive to Día De Muertos, but extensive decorations featuring it are used. Flor de Muerto, or flowers of the Dead, is a sobriquet assigned to the marigold, which is understood to guide the departed to their ofrendas.


Day of the Dead table runner

Whether you need to set up a festive meal, or decorate your ofrenda, this runner is perfect for the occasion!


The festival typically opens with Dia De Los Angelitos, or the day of the little angels, when the spirits of deceased children reunite with their loved ones at the stroke of midnight on the 1st of November. An ofrenda usually host the departed child's favourite snacks, candies, toys, and photographs. The following midnight, Dia De Los Difuntos, is reserved to welcome back the returning adults, and at noon on the 2nd of November, all the dead are publicly celebrated. Dia De Muertos is celebrated differently in different parts of Mexico however, and many local variations exist in how and when celebrations take place.


Sugar Skull temporary tattoo

These temporary tattoos, in addition to being ideal for the occasion, are completely hassle-free, safe to use, and environmentally friendly!


In San Andres Mixquic, celebrations culminate in the alumbrada, the illumination of the cemetery around the main church with with thousands of candles and smoke from incense on the evening of 2nd November. In Tuxtepec, the roads are paved with colored carpets, painstakingly made out of colored sawdust, flower petals, rice, pine needles and other organic materials to welcome the procession of the dead. And in Aguascalientes, celebrations last for an entire week, and are closed by a spectacular parade of skulls along Avenida Madero. In 2008, Día De Muertos was recognized as forming part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. To Mexicans, it is a fun, yet poignant reminder that death is a natural conclusion to life, but the bonds that tie a community together transcend the vitality of mere flesh.



  1. https://mymodernmet.com/skeleton-sculptures-day-of-the-dead/
  2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/mexico/top-ten-day-of-dead-mexico/
  3. https://dayofthedead.holiday/
  4. http://mati.eas.asu.edu:8421/ChicanArte/html_pages/PosadaIssOutl.html
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20180619213758/https://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/faqs.html
  6. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/dollarsandsense/2018/11/02/mexican-traditions-celebrated-on-dia-de-muertos/
  7. https://www.lataco.com/read-this-before-celebrating-dia-de-muertos-this-year-signed-a-zapotecan-american/
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