Dia De Los Muertos

A brief look into the history of Dia de los Muertos, the traditions of the hispanic holiday, and an overall view of how the traditions are celebrated.

Ana Belen Ponce Calvillo, Contributor

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Dia de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, is a Latin American holiday generally associated with Mexico. Due to the fact that many of the traditional customs mainly originated there. The holiday honors the dead with festivals, feasts, and effervescent celebrations. The lively celebration conveniently falls on both All Souls Day, and All Saints Day, which are minor holidays in the Catholic calendar. 

The religion was assured that the deceased would feel rather insulted by only mourning the souls, so the celebration began. Dia de Los Muertos recognizes the dead with parties, festivals, feasts, and many activities the departed once enjoyed during their lives. The celebration honors the dead and recognizes death itself as a natural and fully human experience of life. The heritage of this celebration can be traced back to 3,000 years in the Aztec tribes. Aztecs who once lived primarily in what is now Central

Mexico, viewed life as an integral representation of mortal life. Once dead, a person was believed to officially travel to Chicunamictlan, or briefly translated, The Land of the Dead. Only after finishing the nine challenging levels, can the soul reach Mictlán, the final resting place.

In Nahua religions, many rituals were performed to honor the dead similar to Dia de los Muertos. However, the Nahua rituals were often held in August and the family members of the deceased would lay out and provide food, water, and tools to help the souls on their journey similar to Hispanic culture, when the family of the dead adds to the picture of the deceased to an “ofrenda” to allow the souls to cross and visit. They also set out food and drink as an offering to the souls. 

The most familiar symbol to represent Dia de los Muertos is Calacas or Calaveras which are human skulls painted in colorful patterns. They are often made of sugar and appear everywhere throughout Mexico. Day of the Dead ultimately combines ancient customs with modern Mexican traditions. November 1, and November 2 will officially be Dia de Los Muertos, and many families will visit the graveyard to welcome their friends and loved ones.


Photo Credit: Sam Brand, Chris Blonk