What is the Day of the Dead?
Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican custom celebrated on November 1st and 2nd each year, honoring deceased loved ones. It is believed that the gates of heaven temporarily open at midnight on October 31st, allowing the spirits of deceased children and adults to reunite with their families for a brief visit.
The Day of the Dead rituals first began with the Aztec tribes 3000 years ago who believed deceased ancestors would be offended by tears and mourning. As a result, families in Mexico gather over this holiday in cemeteries – not in sadness, but in celebration of their departed loved ones.
According to tradition, the spirits of deceased children return to earth on November 1st with the spirits of deceased adults joining their families on November 2nd.
Families build altars in their honor with their deceased loved one’s favorite foods, drinks, and treasured photos and keepsakes. Deceased children have altars decorated with toys and favorite treats. Throughout the three-day event, families spend time together sharing stories of their loved ones, singing songs, and praying.
Some of the most widely recognized symbols of Day of the Dead are skulls and skeletons, vividly decorated in bright colors. These skeletons are often portrayed in happy celebration of life, posed as musicians and other revelers.
While Day of the Dead festivities were once only celebrated in Mexico, you now find celebrations springing up in other parts of the world including the United States. Those who celebrate Day of the Dead in these areas also create alters in memory of their loved ones and plan special meals, often including traditional Day of the Dead favorites like tamales and pan de muertos, a semi-sweet bread decorated in the shape of bones. In some cities, Day of the Dead parades have also become a rousing part of the tradition.
Day of the Dead recognizes death as a natural part of the circle of life with the spirits of the deceased remaining a part of the community, bringing peace to the family.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care prides itself on providing culturally sensitive end-of-life care. To learn more about our program or to receive literature about our program in Spanish, Vietnamese or Korean, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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