Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or Dia de Muertos is a traditionally Mexican holiday celebrated November 1st and 2nd. For many outsiders to the culture Dia de los Muertos may sound like Mexico’s answer to Halloween or the name may sound spooky but it is just the opposite. The holiday is centered around the tradition of remembering your ancestors. For many in America the holiday is not as familiar, but that does not mean it is not possible to celebrate. There are still lots of ways to celebrate for folks in the states.
Paint/Ice Sugar Skulls (Calaveras): Sugar skulls are a fun tradition for this time of year and painting them would be perfect for a group. Sugar skulls are typically decorative representations of a departed soul. They are usually made of clay or sugar which is where they get the name. They are always decorated with bright and unique colors. You could go all out and pick up a skull from the store and paint it yourself or paint them on canvas paper and for those who want to be real traditional try working with a skull actually made from sugar. The skulls also usually have big smiles as a show of celebration of life as opposed to a grim view at it. Typically also being associated with flowers as well. It is also a bit common to see people paint their faces or make masks that are inspired by calaveras at festivities or Dia de los Muertos events.
The Food: Dia de los Muertos food is just Mexican comfort food. Dia de los Muertos is about family and it’s about celebration of life. Seeing how the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, tacos must be on the menu. To accompany them you might want to eat some tamales, mole, birria, or whatever feels home-y to you. The desserts of the holiday are important too, and along with the calaveras you must indulge in the traditional pan de muertos. Pan de muertos like most traditional Mexican pan or bread is a single serving of a sweet loaf typically dusted in sugar. The bread is a staple for the holiday and can be found in many Mexicanas or Mexican grocers.
Ofrendas: Ofrendas are another staple to the holiday. With the backbone of the holiday centering around remembrance of ancestors it is common practice to create shrines dedicated to departed family members. The shrines are typically decorated with Mexican marigolds, photos, calaveras, candles and more. You typically give offerings to the shrine these can include just about anything but pan and other food is very common. Ofrendas offer up a secondary purpose with them serving as encouragement for departed loved ones to come visit. Typically in your homes or on the graves of those loved ones.
Etc: Dia de los Muertos has a rich history and many more ways to celebrate. Festivals, parades, and sometimes even concerts are held in honor of the holiday. Typically a Mexican danza or a big Mexican dance is held where men and women where traditional costumes and face paint. Wichita’s own Nomar district held a small festival on October 29th and stores in the district are still decorated. The holiday also has two very prominent entries into film with 2014’s The Book of Life, and 2017’s Coco. Both films handle the subject in two unique ways with the heart of the holiday in the center of it all. Both films also feel like a love letter to the holiday and Mexican culture in general. Beyond that the sky is the limit on how you would like to celebrate.
Dia de los Muertos is a fun holiday with rich history, culture, and mythos behind it. There are so many more ways to celebrate and embrace the holiday not included here but just remember to spend time with the loved ones you have and always remember the ones you might’ve lost. Celebrate their memories and lives and enjoy your own.