Day of the Dead
All about the Mexican Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead, or "Dia de los Muertos," as it is known in Spanish, is a festival honoring the souls of the dearly departed. It is widely celebrated in Mexico and Central America, and falls on November 1 and November 2, coinciding with the Catholic observances of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Despite the obvious associations with Halloween, Day of the Dead art has a decidedly more macabre theme and typically includes skulls, skeletons and other stylized representations of death. Many people decorate their homes with Day of the Dead skulls and will frequently visit the graves of deceased relatives to lay flowers, favorite foods, drinks and other offerings. Day of the Dead in Mexico differs somewhat from the way the holiday is celebrated in other parts of Latin America; for example, in Guatemala, people fly kites on the Day of the Dead, and in Haiti, the holiday is closely associated with the voodoo religion. Even so, the basic principles of the Mexican Day of the Dead are universal in all regions where the holiday is celebrated.
Day of the Dead Food
Food plays a major role in the Day of the Dead. While there is significant variance within Mexico and the other places where the holiday is observed, Day of the Dead recipes are generally oriented towards making food with the highest quality ingredients, and foods are carefully prepared with love and attention to detail.
The exact foods that will be made depend largely on the gastronomic preferences of the people being honored. It is common practice for surviving family members to make the favorite meals of their dead relatives and place them on makeshift altars at their gravesites as a token of remembrance.
One special dish that is often made on the Day of the Dead is a unique type of bread known as "pan de muerto" or "bread of the dead." It is frequently baked in round loaves, but some cultures make bread in the shapes of animals or people to bring to the graves of family members. Some bakeries also sprinkle the top of the loaves with flour or sugar in the shapes of crosses or skulls.
Parades and church services are also part of the Day of the Dead holiday, and many cities host community events that promote togetherness. As much as anything, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of life and a time to reflect on one's own mortality.