El Día de los Muertos

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El Día de los Muertos

An ofrenda honoring a passed loved one for The Day of the Dead.

An ofrenda honoring a passed loved one for The Day of the Dead.

An ofrenda honoring a passed loved one for The Day of the Dead.

An ofrenda honoring a passed loved one for The Day of the Dead.

Samantha Fabian, Writer

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Growing up, I was always told “The Day of The Dead,” or el Día de los Muertos, was a holiday celebrated October 31 – November 2nd to honor and remember friends and family members who have died, I have memories of visiting my ancestors’ resting places, bringing food, flowers, musical instruments they played, books they enjoyed, and drinks they enjoyed during their life. Today, those similar traditions and rituals are represented with movies like The Book of Life and Coco, and the Day of The Dead is a holiday that is much more recognized and celebrated. 

In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. It is viewed not as a day of sadness, but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them. Some might ask, “How can you celebrate death?” However, death is not what is being celebrated; life is. The life our loved ones had is so important on El Día de los Muertos, because even in death, we want to welcome those who have passed home and let them know how loved they still are. Although the dead are buried away from their homes, their graves are decorated with the idea that once their souls are awakened, they return there first, and they are greeted at this beautiful place. In some Mexican villages, paths of flower petals are made from the cemetery to the home so that the spirits will be able to find their way to their loved ones. 

If you’re one of many people who watched Disney’s Coco and dried your tears from the heartwarming story of how important family is, you may remember learning about placing loved ones’ photos on an “ofrenda.” An ofrenda is a display of objects placed on a ritual altar. Loved ones place pictures of the deceased, along with items that belonged to them and objects that serve as a reminder of their lives. Objects like bread and sugar skulls with colorful icing and sugar represent the sweetness of life, while the skull represents death. Many times, water is also left in a pitcher so the spirits can quench their thirst. 

While it’s technically considered an altar, it is not for worship. It is for honoring, paying respect, welcoming and remembering deceased loved ones. It is a comforting feeling when looking at ofrendas, as it is a reminder that although those we love are no longer on this earth, the story of their life will not be forgotten but celebrated and passed down. It allows a connection from those living to those we loved who passed 

The ofrenda my mother makes is full of photos of family members, ancestors, and even close friends. She fills the altar with their favorite foods, bottles of alcohol they most enjoyed, and even places little trinkets like mini soccer balls and toy guitars to represent passions and hobbies theonce loved to do. This is with the purpose that on El Día de los Muertos, our loved ones will visit the alter and enjoy a day with people they loved and items they loved as well. 

Even though The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, it is celebrated in places all over the world too. The traditions and history this holiday has is a key aspect of Mexican culture, and is celebrated worldwide to honor this.

For those of you who have lost someone you love, what is something you would put on out on The Day of the Dead to honor their life? I hope you think of something beautiful and important, because that is what this holiday is all about. 

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