Dia de Los Muertos

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Dia de Los Muertos

Hannah Sievers, Special Contributor

Many people think that Dia de Los Muertos is like Mexican Halloween or they have never even heard of it. The reality is Dia de Los Muertos is a special holiday celebrated in many countries around the world. Though widely associated with Mexico, the festival for the dead is celebrated in many Latin American countries and basically anywhere with a Latino population. The tradition originated in Mexico; it is a mix of Aztec rituals and Catholicism from when the Spanish conquistadors came to Central America. The two-day celebration coincides with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

The heart of the Festival is to remember the lives of deceased family members and reunite the living with the dead for a day. The living family members create altars filled with offerings that their family members will take with them back to the other side. The altars always include pictures of the family members they want to commemorate. Popular items also include skulls, marigolds, cut paper designs, Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead), and salt.  The skulls represent those receiving the offerings and the sugar they are made out of is supposed to represent the sweetness of life. These were the original representation, as photographs have obviously not been around nearly as long as this tradition. Marigolds are the traditional flower used as it is thought that souls are attracted to the scent of the marigolds and the families put flowers all around to help lead their loved ones to their altar. The holes of the perforated paper are a way for souls to travel through and the bread is one of many foods put on the altar. Other items include bottles of water and Tequila to quench the thirst of the traveling souls. The bread is designed as a skull and crossbones with a circle and legs, as most things on this holiday are related to the dead and symbolize a part of life or death. Another way the living tries to help the thirsty souls is by placing salt on the altar in a cross, which is believed to purify them.

The day of the dead is obviously so much more than a different culture’s Halloween. It is a holiday that brings families closer and helps them feel more connected to the ones they lost. While some people may not believe in the souls of the dead returning to visit loved ones, this is an important part of Latino culture that has been around for many years and will continue to impact the lives of many to come.