Dia de los Muertos: A Celebration of Life in the Shadow of Death

Lydia Wilson

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Dia de Los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is a two day festival celebrating the lives of loved ones that have passed away. This holiday is celebrated on October 31st and November 1st in Mexico and throughout Latin America. It is also very popular with the Latino population in various states of the U.S.

Dia de los Muertos originated from the Aztec and Catholic religions in which representations of “calacas” (skeletons) and “calaveras” (skulls) are very common. Don’t mistake these skeletons for fun Halloween costumes, they are not. Catrinas are a specific type of skeleton wearing well-dressed and wealthy clothes representing the early 20th century Mexico. Although Dia de los Muertos has been developed into a candy based holiday, similar to Halloween, it has nothing to do with Halloween which is a Northern European holiday. Make up, flowers, and masks are a very important part of this Latino tradition. Sweets are also a crucial version of this holiday specially pan de los muertos which is a sweet bread. Calaveras de azúcar are sugar skulls that you can decorate with frosting that you leave as an “ofrenda”, which is a type of offering that you give your loved ones for their journey. It celebrates death as an important part of human experience, by not offering the death by grieve and sadness but honor them with celebrations. The death are celebrated  by providing them with their favorite things in life including music, food, and drinks. They gather around their graves and tell endearing stories about their loved ones, as well as lighting candles. 

Valuing other people’s cultures, the Spanish department has graciously given us the opportunity to bring in pictures and offerings for our loved ones that have passed away. So feel free to contribute to this wonderful timeless tradition at Northfield High School.