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The Holiday of Dia De Los Muertos: Purpose and Traditions

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In English, Día de los Muertos means “day of the dead”. The main purpose of this holiday is to honor and remember the dead. The holiday acknowledges the spirits of dead people, and that pleased spirits will provide people with a better life through means like wisdom. Many festivals, memorials, and traditions occur during this holiday for the dead to be honored and remembered.

Día de los Muertos is a three-day holiday celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd. At midnight on October 31st, people believe that any dead children can visit their families from heaven for a whole day. People also believe that any adults who have passed on are able to become spirits to enjoy any celebrations held in their honor on November 2nd.

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The holiday is celebrated throughout Mexico (southern and central regions) and in Hispanic communities in the United States (southwest region). But a similar celebration occurs in primarily Catholic nations/regions such as Spain, Italy, Philippines, and South America. Catholic nations/regions celebrate ‘All Souls Day’ on November 1st and ‘All Saints Day’ on November 2nd.

Three foods that are specific to Día de los Muertos is pan de muerto, sugar candies, and tamales. Pan de muerto translates to “bread of the dead”, and is described as sweet, circular egg bread commonly cooked with dough pieces of skulls with cross bones and skeletons. This holiday is where only sugar candies shaped as skeletons, graves, and skulls are served. They can take up to half a year to make and are commonly made of chocolate. Sugar candies are a popular snack with children, but the purpose of them is to decorate tombs, altars, and be put in offerings. Tamales are a traditional Mexican food but are served in Día de los Muertos. Meat and vegetables are stuffed into dough made from corn, and then corn husks are wrapped around them. The one that appeals to my taste buds is the sugar candies because chocolate is my favorite food.

Ofrendas (offerings), but also known as altars, are any presents offered to spirits placed on burial sites. The presents are tailored to what the spirit liked when they were alive. This could be toys, personal belongings, music, clothes, symbols of interest (ex. sports), etc. However, common presents offered are papeles picados (styled colored paper), candles, flowers, the dead’s pictures, peanuts, fruit, tortillas, etc. Children spirits usually are given candy and toys while adult spirits receive mezcal and cigarettes.

Día de los Muertos is like Halloween because they both occur on October 31st, have lots of sugary foods, use skeletons and skulls, and are celebrated in some of the same places such as the United States. Halloween however involves trick-or-treating (giving out candy), costumes, scaring others (haunted houses for example), and carving pumpkins. These are not practiced in the “Day of the Dead”.

My opinion of Día de los Muertos is that it is a fascinating holiday worth learning about. When people die, I believe that they all go somewhere after death. This holiday provided me with a perspective of what some people believe happens to those who have died. I also really liked learning about the different ways people celebrate and honor the lives of those gone. While I remember those in my life who are now gone, I have never taken the time to celebrate and honor their lives.

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