Day of the Dead Resource Guide
Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, is holiday traditionally observed in Mexico, that is celebrated on November 1 and November 2. It is believed that when midnight strikes on October 31, the spirits of all deceased children are able to reunite with their families for 24 hours. Then, on November 2, the spirits of deceased adults reunite with their families to enjoy the lavish festivities held in their honor.
In many villages, intricate altars called ofrendas are made in the home. The ofrendas are decorated with buckets of flowers, candles, food, and pan de muerto, which is day of the dead bread. The altars need to have lots of food as well as water, hot cocoa, and bottles of soda, to appease weary spirits. Candies and toys are often left for the spirits of the deceased children and for the spirits of adults, there are generally cigarettes and shots of mezcal on the altar. The final touches on the ofrendas include sugar skulls and small folk art skeletons that can be purchased at open air markets throughout Mexico.
Day of the Dead is a rather expensive holiday for indigenous, rural families, that are often self-sufficient. Many of these families will spend more than two month's salary to honor their deceased loved ones. The belief is that happy spirits will provide good luck, protection, and wisdom to families, and the building of the ofrendas helps to keep families close.
During the afternoon on November 2, families take their festivities to the cemetery. There, people will clean the tombs of their deceased loved ones while listening to village bands, playing cards, and reminiscing about their deceased family members. This tradition is thought to keep people in villages close. There are also many other traditions and festivities that take place in different areas throughout Mexico.
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday but is celebrated throughout the Catholic world. People in countries such as Spain and Italy, celebrate All Saints and All Souls Day on November 1 and November 2. All Saints and All Souls day usually involves special masses, and other traditional activities though it is really only in Central and Southern Mexico where the colorful parties take place with the building of ofrendas. In Mexico, Day of the Dead celebrations are generally held in states south of Mexico City including Michoacan, Yucatan, Veracruz, and Chiapas, among other areas. Day of the Dead celebrations are also starting to become more common in places such as the United States.
Learn More About Day of the Dead
- History of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos)
- The Day of the Dead - Overview of Celebrations
- Smithsonian Latino Center's Theater of the Dead
- Dia de los Muertos in Mexico - Altar Offerings and Celebrations
- Mexican Celebration - Day of the Dead
- A Day of the Dead Mini Unit
- Mexican Traditions and Culture - Dia de los Muertos
- History Professor Raises Awareness About Day of the Dead Tradition
- Exploring Mexican Day of the Dead Traditions
- Learn About Mexico's Bread of the Dead
- Decoding the Food and Drink on a Day of the Dead Altar
- Day of the Dead History - Rituals Dating Back 3000 Years
- Learn More - All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Day of the Dead
- Unique Facts About Mexico - Day of the Dead
- The Changing Face of Mexico - Mexican Day of the Dead
- Mexico's Dia de los Muertos Holiday
- The Origins of Halloween and Day of the Dead
- National Geographic Society - Dia de los Muertos Holiday Overview
- History of Day of the Dead Sweets and Treats
- Interesting Facts About Mexico's Day of the Dead