The Day of the Dead, known in Spanish as Día de los Muertos, is a holiday honoring the spirits of the deceased. The Mexican tradition is a vibrant affair complete with dazzling décor, flowers, food, and drink. The celebration coincides with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls' Day on Nov. 2.
Every year, families in Mexico and throughout the world gather together in their homes and in cemeteries to create awe-inspiring altars for their deceased loved ones. These elaborate altars, which resemble meticulous shrines, can be erected in the home or on the gravesites themselves.
Offerings ("las ofrendas") of food and drink, and toys for children's souls, are incorporated into the grand display. Typically, friends and family construct the colorful altars using marigold flowers, photos and possessions of the deceased, and a great deal of candles.
Incense called "copal" permeates the air as crowds congregate around their ofrendas, telling stories and anecdotes about the loved ones they have gathered to honor.
Food plays a central role in the festivities and much preparation is involved. Customary Mexican fare like mole sauces and tamales are prevalent, though different regions incorporate their own local flair. Sugar skull candy is an iconic representation of the celebration, as are chocolate coffins and skeletons.
Though some who aren't familiar with the holiday may perceive the images of dancing skeletons and decorated skulls to be morbid, the true essence of Día de los Muertos is anything but. Those who celebrate this spiritual occasion know that the central focus is honoring and remembering the souls of cherished friends and families who have passed from one world into another. To join in on the celebration, click through our slideshow and host an authentic Día de los Muertos celebration today!