One of Mexico’s most important religious holidays is Day of the Dead. You may have heard it referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Fieles Difuntos. It is celebrated from November 1st to 2nd, encompassing All Saint’s Day, which traditionally honors deceased children, and All Soul’s Day, which honors deceased adults.
Day of the Dead is celebrated passionately throughout Mexico and is far from a morbid event. It emphasizes remembrance of past lives and celebration of the continuity of life. This acknowledgement of life’s continuity has roots which go back to some of Mexico’s oldest civilizations, like the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Purepecha. The Aztecs, too, celebrated Day of the Dead, although earlier (August) on the current calendar.
Planning for Day of the Dead can be done days, weeks or even a whole year in advance. During this time, family members gather ofrendas (offerings) for the dead; toys for the deceased children and bottles of tequila, mezcal, or atole for deceased adults. They may also collect trinkets or the deceased’s favorite food or candy.
During the celebratory period, it’s traditional for families to visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried to clean graves and decorate them with orange marigold flowers called cempaxochitl or Flor de Muerto (“Flower of the Dead”) and the offerings they have collected. They will also place offerings in their homes, usually foods such as caramelized pumpkin, Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) and small sugar skulls which are sometimes engraved with the deceased person’s name.
Pan de Muerto is one of the culinary highlights of the season. It is a semi-sweet, sugar-coated bread made from eggs and infused with natural citrus fruit flavors. It’s traditionally taken with hot chocolate mixed with cinnamon. The combination is perfect on a chilly November evening.
Day of the Dead is a holiday that attracts a certain fascination for visitors from abroad. The precise ceremonies, offerings and customs for the celebrations vary by region and town. However, the fundamental traditions described here are echoed all over Mexico. If visiting during this time of year, it is worthwhile to visit a cemetery to see the graves bursting with color and decoration and to lovingly remember the lives of those who have passed.
Make your plans today to visit Rancho Las Cascadas during this extraordinary time. Rooms are filling quickly.
Photo 1: We place orange marigold flowers called Flor de Muerto (“Flower of the Dead”) on the horses to celebrate.
Photo 2: We create an altar at the Rancho with our own offerings.
Photo 3: Families decorate the graves of loved ones who have died.