Día de los Muertos: A Celebration to Honor the Lost and Ground the Living
Día de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated every November 1st and 2nd. It’s a time to gather with family and friends to honor those no longer living, serving as a chance to honor our ancestors through beautiful and devotional rituals. Families tidy and decorate their loved ones’ graves, and bring them sentimental trinkets or objects they loved as an offering, and we build ofrendas, or altars, to honor them.
It’s a tradition that makes me proud to be Mexican. ❤️ The mood of this holiday will vary from grievance to humorous as relatives reminisce about loving and funny anecdotes of their loved ones.
In some areas in Mexico, the cemetery plays a larger role in celebrations than in others where the home is the center of celebrations where ofrendas are built. The favorite food and beverage of the deceased are often taken to graves and alters to honor the dead and in some regions, people celebrate the loss of children by hosting dinners consisting of specific foods and sweets. Costumes, body paint, and imagery of skulls and bones are often important in many areas of Mexico when celebrating these holidays as well.
The connection between the living and the dead is key to understanding Día de los Muertos. We believe that as long as we remember and honor those who are gone, they will still be with us. And every November 1st and 2nd, we not only connect to the past, but also ground ourselves in the present moment.
Whenever I set the ofrenda, I feel calm and I feel connected. I let my heart lead the way and guide every action in this ritual. First, I lay a beautiful tablecloth, arrange the cempasúchil flowers in my beautiful vase, then I hang up my papel picado banner and go from there. This year I collaborated with two other small business to put together an Ofrenda Set that includes: Molcajete floral arrangement from Vida Bloom, Recuerdame personalized Candle from Luz Apothecary, and Monarch Butterfly garland from Teje. You can pre-order your set today on our website.
You can add whatever you like to your ofrenda, but here are the main things most people (including myself) like to add:
- Cempasuchil (Marigolds)- Known for their medicinal properties and used to decorate graves, the golden yellow or copper brown color of marigolds represents the sun. Their strong scent creates an aromatic ambiance, and they are believed to attract the souls of the dead.
- Pan de Muerto - is a sweet bread baked and offered as a type of ofrenda that is part of an altar. Its criss-cross shape represents bones and the single tear shape stands in for sorrow. According to Remezcla, it signals the generosity of the host and feeds the dead after a long, weary journey.
- Candles - The flames of the candles symbolize hope and faith, and they light the way to help the souls find their way to the altar. Typically white candles are used, but purple can also stand in to symbolize grief.
- Copal Incense - The incense represents praise and prayer. It is believed that the rising smoke takes the prayer to the gods and serves as an offering to the gods to cleanse the air and allow spirits to enter without difficulty.
- Papel Picado - The thin sheet of colorful paper typically designed with skeletons, animals and pumpkins represents the wind, because when loved ones arrive, the paper will move and thus alert the host to their presence. Yellow paper symbolizes life, purple stands in for death and orange serves as the union between life and death, according to Remezcla.
- Drinks and Food - Water is a must because it not only quenches the soul's thirst, but it represents purity of the soul and the source of life. Other drinks and food can vary depending on what ancestors enjoyed.
- Sugar Skulls - Typically decorated with flowers and other designs, sugar skulls represent death and the sweetness of life.
- Personal Objects - These objects define a loved one and can range anywhere from a piece of clothing to a favorite hobby. They stand in to make a loved one feel at home and comfortable.