Dia de los muertos
Illustration of a city lit up on Day of the Dead

One time a year, our departed come back to celebrate with us

Image of people gathering at the cemetary on Day of the Dead
A dedication to the deceased

Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) is a two day holiday that reunites the living and dead. Families create ofrendas (Offerings) to honor their departed family members that have passed. These altars are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departed souls hear their prayers, smell their foods and join in the celebrations!

Day of the Dead is a rare holiday for celebrating death and life. It is unlike any holiday where mourning is exchanged for celebration.

“Day of the Dead is a holiday to remember loved ones by sharing a meal with them as one would when they were alive.”
Image of gravesite during Dia De Los Meurtos

When is theDay of the Dead?

🌙Nov 1st, 12am

Dia de los Angelitos

Spirits of the children


Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the little angels) starts the holiday at midnight on Nov 1st, where the spirits of all deceased children are believed to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. Families construct an altar, known as an ofrenda, with the departed child’s favorite snacks, candies, toys, and photographs to encourage a visit from their departed children. The names of the departed children will often be written on a sugar skull.

🌙Nov 2nd, 12am

Día de los Difuntos

Spirits of the adults


At midnight of the following day (November 2nd), the celebrations shift to honor the lives of the departed adults. The night is filled with laughter and fun memories, much like the night before. However, the Ofrendas take on a more adult-like theme with tequila, pan de muerto, mezcal, pulque and jars of Atole. Families will also play games together, reminisce about their loved ones, and dance while the village band plays in their town.

☀️Nov 2nd, Noon

Día de los Muertos

Spirits of all the dead


The next day is the grand finale and public celebration of Dia de Muertos. In more recent times, people come together in their cities, dressed up with Calavera painted faces (Skeletons) and have parades in the streets. Cemetery visits are also common on the last day as families will go to decorate the grave sites with Marigold flowers, gifts, and sugar skulls with the departed’s name on them. It’s customary to clean the grave stone and restore the color.

How people celebrate Day of the Dead

Image of people gateher with lights on Dia de los Muertos

Sugar Skull art, coloring pages, and more!

Calaveras “Skull”

Calaveras are ubiquitous during Day of the Dead. The skulls are often drawn with a smile as to laugh at death itself. They take many forms such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most memorable: face painting. Sugar skulls are decorated and placed on ofrendas of loved ones. A Calavera, or sugar skull, is a decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar (called Alfeñiques) or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead.

Flor de Muerto Mexican Marigolds

Marigolds are believed to be the pathways that guide the spirits to their ofrendas. The flower’s vibrant colors and scent attract the departed souls, as they return to feast on their favorite foods. They are called “Flor de Muerto” (Spanish for Flower of Dead) and they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. Marigold flowers include around 60 annuals and perennials that are native to Mexico and Central America.

Image of mexican cultural symbol the marigold

The symbolism behind the flowers

Ofrenda “Offering”

Image of graves decorated for Dia de los Meurtos

Learn how to make an Ofrenda

While the most recognizable aspects of Day of the Dead are the representations of skulls and skeletons, the tradition that holds the most meaning is the Ofrenda (Spanish for offering). The Ofrenda is what the whole celebration is about; it’s a collection of offerings dedicated to the person being honored.

A brightly colored Oilcloth covers the table and on top of that sits a collection of photographs and personal items of the departed person. The lower portion of the altar is where the offerings are placed, from traditional Mexican cuisine to other items that represent the honored person’s particular tastes.

Fun facts about Day of the Dead

1.Day of the dead is not Halloween

Day of the Dead is not the “Mexican Halloween” like it is sometimes mistaken to be because of the timing of the year. The two holidays originated with similar afterlife beliefs but are very different in modern day. Halloween began as a Celtic Festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts but has recently turned into a tradition of costume wearing and trick-or-treating. Decorating your house with spiders and bats and wearing scary costumes is not done in most parts of Mexico.

2.It’s not somber but celebratory

Many of us see death as a sad event but those who celebrate Day of the Dead view death as a welcomed part of life. That is why you will see brightly colored skeletons and skulls everywhere during the holiday. They often are seen smiling, as a friendly nod to death, even mocking death. This view of death began way back during the one month Aztec festival where they celebrated the dead and paid homage to the lady of death, Mictlancíhuatl, who protected their departed loved ones and helped them in the afterlife.

3.Traditions are different by Country

Believe it or not, Mexicans are not the only ones to celebrate Day of the Dead. It is a widely celebrated holiday all over the world. In fact, many religious communities celebrate All Souls Day (also known as All Saints Day) during the same time as Day of the Dead. The act of honoring the dead is widely celebrated around the world but Day of the Dead is unique in its traditions: the ofrenda, the meaning of life and death, the use of calaveras, the style influenced by La Catrina, and more recently, the festivals in the streets.

Learn more about Day of the Dead

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them