Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead celebrations, known in Spanish as Dia de los Muertos take place on November 1st and 2nd, coinciding with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.

November 1st is dedicated to remember the children while on the 2nd dead adults are honored.

It is a common belief that, during these days, the souls of the dead are allowed to return to this world and visit their loved ones.

All around Mexico families gather in the cemeteries to clean and ornate the tombstones of their ancestors.

Some families stay over and have lunch while listening to music and talking about the deceased.

Mixquic day of the dead

Inside the houses special altars, called Ofrendas are set; offering the dead with all the elements they need to find their home in the journey from the other world and treat them with bread, candies, food and spirited drinks. The altars are decorated with cempasuchil flowers, known as the Flowers of the Dead and papel picado or chiseled paper.

Day of the Dead Altar

The most popular candies made in this time of the year are the sugar skulls, which are given to friends with their name on them as a funny treat. These skulls are made of sugar, chocolate or amaranth seeds.

Candy Skulls

Day of the dead bread is found in every bakery and enjoyed by everyone around these days; the bread is also an important element in the altars.

Day of the Dead Bread


The celebration origins are usually traced back to pre-Hispanic times, and although it is true that Mesoamerican cultures held celebrations honoring their dead, the festivity as we know it today has little to do with those observances and more in common with the Spanish catholic rituals.

The native legends, the colors, flavors and patterns that surround the festivity are elements brought in by the original cultures showing, like many events in Mexican history, the blend between the Indigenous and the Spanish cultures.

Although common elements can be seen, the Day of the Dead celebrations are different in every community. The indigenous communities and the peasants are more observant of the tradition while the urban population is more influenced by foreign customs. The festivities held in Mixquic and Janitzio are considered among the most traditional in the country.

Janitzio Cemetery

Janitzio Cemetery

Mexican folk art has been widely influenced by the festivities' rituals. Many folk art items are created to ornate altars and tombstones like incense burners, candle holders, skulls and skeletons of different materials.

Newspapers and magazines publish outstanding rhymes sometimes accompanied with cartoons called Calaveras. These can be described as satirical epitaphs about the supposed death circumstances of politicians and celebrities.

Guadalupe Posada Calavera

It was in this gender that Jose Guadalupe Posada created The Catrina, which has become an iconic figure in Day of the Dead art. Posada captured in this effigy the lack of solemnity used by Mexicans treating death and the joyfulness that surrounds the whole event.

The Catrina was sculpted in clay for the first time in 1982 by Juan Torres a renown painter and sculptor from Michoacan and has been reproduced in every material ever since.

Catrina Juan Torres

In the last years, the celebration has been taken to the US and Canada by Mexican immigrants, creating a craze for Day of the Dead souvenirs that are usually mass produced and have no traditional meaning, a perfect example is the skeletons nativity scene.

Skeletons Nativity Scene




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