This is an image of a sugar skull used as decoration for the Day of the Dead.

Are you sad that this is the last week of Hispanic Heritage Month? I know I am. Don’t worry – I’m making this week’s post extra special by telling you about a really cool holiday that’s coming up soon – Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated mostly in Mexico and within the Mexican community in the U.S. However, other countries in Latin America and Europe celebrate it in a similar way.

What is the Day of the Dead?

This holiday, in reality, is a two-day event. On November 1, the “Day of the Little Angels” (Dia de los Angelitos or Dia de los Inocentes) is celebrated by honoring deceased children. Families pray, visit the cemetery, decorate graves and put an ofrenda (offering) at the child’s home or grave.  The offering could include the child’s favorite sweets, foods and beverages, as well as pictures of the child and even some Calaveras. (I’ll explain what this means below.)

On November 2, the Day of the Dead honors deceased adults. The procedure is the same as on November 1, but with a few differences. For instance, for the “adult” offerings, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes may be included.

What’s the purpose of the Day of the Dead offering?

There’s the belief that the spirits of the deceased come back on this day to visit. The foods and beverages are offered to help these spirits make the trip from the “other life” to our mortal world.

Calaveras (Skull Poems)

 A lot of the Day of the Dead celebrations take a humorous approach. For example, Calaveras (skull poems) are short poems that describe funny anecdotes or habits of both the deceased and those still alive. Here’s an example of a Calavera:

There’s a mean old lady that lives next door

She yells and she screams and stomps on the floor

One day she sneezed so hard that her hat fell down

I picked it up and looked at her frown

She was really a skeleton from her toes to her head

Don’t be scared, one day you’ll look like me, she said!

Sounds spooky? Maybe. But the truth is that the Day of the Dead started as a way to celebrate…the dead. So, the way that ancestors viewed death was very different than the way we see it now. In other words, our ancestors wanted to embrace death instead of being afraid.

Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll start seeing Halloween in a different light or maybe even take some time to honor those loved ones who have passed to the “other life.”


Gabriela Islas is a contributor for the Quicken Loans Zing Blog.  Stay connected with us on our Facebook page and our Twitter page to find out all the ways we’re Engineered to Amaze.

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