Los Dias de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexico holiday honoring the dead. Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time, but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing.
It is celebrated every year at the same time as Halloween and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd).
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It is celebrated in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and other areas in Central and South America populated with the Latino ethnic background. The Day of the Dead is also celebrated in areas of the United States, such as California, Texas, and many others, in which the Mexican/American heritage exists.
In the homes families arrange ofrenda's or "altars" with flowers, bread, fruit and candy. Pictures of the deceased family members are added. In the late afternoon special all night burning candles are lit - it is time to remember the departed - the old ones, their parents and grandparents.
Skeletons and skulls are found everywhere. Chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and white chocolate skeletons.
Handmade skeleton figurines, called c alacas , are especially popular. Calacas usually show an active and joyful afterlife. Figures of musicians, generals on horseback, even skeletal brides, in their white bridal gowns marching down the aisles with their boney grooms.
yellow, and are considered the flowers of the dead. The sweet smell and petals, which are used to mark a clear path, lure the souls back to homes and altars. The orange marigold was the flower that the Aztecs used to remember their dead. Its color represents the tones of the earth.
Originating in pre-Hispanic times, the incense is used to attract souls. Copal is a special and expensive incense that can be found in Puebla. The whiter the incense, the better it is considered because it lasts longer. Incense is put on the altar last.
The altar may be decorated with special foods, candy, or beverages that the people enjoyed while they were alive. Chocolate may be added, especially in Oaxaca, famous for the mole sauce made with chocolate. You know that the dead have come back to visit an altar because sodas go flat, bread comes hard, and fruits get soft.
By putting on a mask, a person can become another being, either alive or dead. Many indigenous people still depend on masks believing they are needed to make the rituals or dance performances effective.
Masks can be made from wood, tin, cloth, leather, hemp, clay, feathers,
shells, or paper mache. Some masks date back to 1000 BC.