In Mexico, the 2nd of November is known as Dia de Muertos, which means Day of the Dead. It’s celebrated two days after Hallowe’en and despite some obvious similarities, it’s uniquely Mexican in the way it touches on the subject of death.
Dia de Muertos is a time for families to reflect on loved ones that they have lost, and to think about their own relationship with mortality and the afterlife. In today’s blog, we’re going to talk about three things that make Dia de Muertos unique, by looking at its iconography, rituals, and gastronomy.
One of the most iconic images seen on November 2nd is that of La Catrina, a female skeleton dressed in a hat. The image was originally created by a printer in 1910, and later made an appearance in a mural painted by artist Diego Rivera made in 1948. It was here that she finally got her name. Today she has become a part of Mexican culture and it’s common to see people of all ages paint their faces in her likeness on November 2.
On November 2 it’s traditional to build an altar where families place the ofrendas that are laid out for the spirits of their ancestors. In addition to food and beverages, people will place photos of their loved ones, along with personal items that used to belong to them. The idea is to call upon their souls to return through praying. This is why altars are usually found in people’s homes, but it’s also common for people to visit cemeteries and place the altars there.
Food is also an important part of Dia de Muertos because, in addition to being eaten by the living, it is also served as an offering to the souls of the departed. These ofrendas (offerings) consist of many items that have become a part of the tradition.
The most common dish you’ll find is tamales, a starchy dough that is steamed in a corn leaf or banana leaf, and then topped with salsa. Pan de muerto, a sweet roll topped with sugar, is served as a dessert, along with small sugar-covered skulls called calaveras.
Dia de Muertos also has several drinks that are associated with its rituals and celebrations. These include atole, champurrado, and agua de Jamaica, an herbal tea made of flowers and leaves that tastes sweet and is served cold.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Of course, the best way to learn about it is to experience it personally, so we hope you’ll join us here soon in the Riviera Maya and become a part of this yearly tradition.