The Day of the Dead – November 2nd    

 The days of the dead are truly a celebration of life.  When children dance with caricatures of death, eat skull sugar molds and learn to respect that life is brief, they learn there is a circle to life and to not fear death and then are free to enjoy and appreciate every moment.



The Days of the Dead


October 31st – All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween


November 1st, Dia de los innocents, All Saint’s Day

November 2nd - the Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day



           Celebrating The Day of the Dead has a long history in Mexican Tradition.  The Day of the dead is celebrated on November 2nd.  Sometime one hears reference to “the days of the Dead” which refers to the Days of October 31 – November 2.  October 31 is Halloween or All Hallows eve. November 1 is “el Dia de los innnocentes” or the day of the children and All Saints Day.  November second is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead.

           Some Christian’s hold to the belief structure that every day should be treated like Christmas, - as every day Christ’s love is born and should be celebrated.  Therefore, the positive, compassionate attitude that is associated with the Christmas season would ideally be maintained throughout the year.  Christmas Day is celebrated formally to remind us of this value.  The day of the Dead is similar.  During the days of the Dead, some believe that the souls of the departed return to earth to visit with and to provide council or give advice to family and loved ones.  There is a belief that this is true every day, but that November 2nd is the day set aside to remember and honor those who have past.



         In Mexico, there is a tradition of visiting gravesites.  Unlike the United States where graveyards are privately owned and maintained, graveyards in Mexico are often publicly owned or managed by local churches.  It is up to the families of the deceased and other community members to maintain the graves.


The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration and remembrance of loved ones who have passed away, much like Memorial Day in the United States.



            During the days of the dead, the family often takes the opportunity to visit the gravesite and pull weeds, clean any debris and decorate the graves of loved ones.  Often candles, flowers and the favorite foods of the deceased are placed on the grave and the family visits, eats, sings and tells favorite stories about those who have passed. 

            In the United States or for those for whom visiting the gravesite is not viable, (often graveyards are closed during the evening hours) the tradition has been adapted.  Many set up altars in their homes and often communities host a variety of events. In Albuquerque’s south valley the Marigold parade and celebration at the West Side Community Center is one such event. Altars are usually decorated with flowers, candles, pan de muerto, ceramic skulls, and most importantly pictures of loved ones. 

            Food placed on the altar consists of the loved ones favorite dishes and treats.  Drinks should be placed in the altar to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey back home.  In many villages it is customary to offer alcoholic beverages.  Salt is considered the spice of life and is one the staples that are often left at the altar.  The scents of marigolds as well as burning copal (a resin of the copal tree) are thought to be most beloved by the spirits of the dead and invite them back home. 

The rituals used to celebrate the day are varied and colorful.  Yet, all carry the same message, celebrating the day of the dead is a true celebration of life.


 For more on the Day of the Dead:


 A Beginning History of the Day of the Dead, Article by Helen Tafoya-Barraza – the Day of the Dead


 Why Do Mexicans Celebrate the Day of the Dead?  An article by Ricardo J. Salvador


 The Day of the Dead, An article by May Herz, including information on how to obtain an educational video K-12.


There are many, many online resources about the Day of the Dead.  Try using your favorite internet search engine

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