Día de Los Muertos, the Mexican holiday, is celebrated each year on Nov. 1 and 2. Aside from many people’s views on this holiday, it is not just the Mexican version of Halloween, it is a part of their culture. These days are used as a recognition of dead loved ones with a celebration of life.
Day of the Dead is seen as the crossover of the living and the spirit world. The living welcome their late loved ones with “Ofrendas,” meaning offerings in English. An Ofrenda is an altar that presents welcoming gifts to their visitors.
Common things found on an Ofrenda are candles, pan de muerto, papel china, cempasúchil flowers, pictures of their visitors, pictures of a saint, food their late ones enjoyed, and other offerings from their loved ones’ lifetime.
Senior, Edsel Quintana-Puente is from Mexico and has shown me what things his family does to prepare for these days. First, we had to gather everything for the Ofrenda. We got pan de muerto from a local panaderia, cempasúchil flowers (marigolds), and papel de china.
The cempasuchil flower represents that day, and is mainly only orange. The papel china is essentially tissue paper used as decoration, in the colors orange, black, purple, and white.
Every day of the celebration the living light candles on the Ofrenda, which guides the spirits to the altar and let them enjoy the offerings that are set out for them, which is usually the deceased’s favorite meals. Sometimes people add cigarettes and alcohol for those that used to drink and smoke.
All these preparations are to celebrate the life that their loved ones had. They throw a party for the souls of the deceased, to show that they still remember and think about them.
Quintana-Puente’s family explained to me how the altar represents that they receive their soul to celebrate with them, and that every item has its own meaning.
This is a beautiful holiday deeply rooted in Mexican culture; it is very interesting how their culture celebrates life in death whereas others view it as a very negative thing.
If you are interested in learning more about this amazing holiday, the movie Coco does a great job of explaining what it’s like and the meaning behind it.