The history and rituals within Dias de los Muertos

The history and rituals within Dias de los Muertos

Student Writer Emmeline Rochester

Dias de los Muertos, which translates to “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and other Latin countries to honor the spirits that have passed on.

The holiday begins Oct. 31 and lasts until Nov. 2, and has been observed since the 16th century, according to National Geographic.

Freshman Courtney Brown said the holiday is a day to celebrate lost loved ones and to visit ancestors’ graves.

“It’s a celebration in honor of the people who we love that have passed away,” said Spanish professor Alejandra Alvarado-Brizuela. “It’s celebrated mostly in Mexico, so no, I do not celebrate it. It’s to remember the lives who are no longer with us. It’s not meant to be sad but a celebration of the life of the ones we love.”

Making and eating sugar skulls, establishing ofrendas for loved ones, decorating with Mexican marigolds and face painting are just a few of the traditions that come along with celebrating the holiday.

Sugar skulls are made with white sugar and pressed into skull molds that are decorated with icing. The skulls are made to enhance the ofrendas.

Ofrendas are altars decorated with colors, such as orange and purple, and candles dedicated to loved ones or a group of loved ones. The most popular way to establish an ofrenda is to put the items their ancestors liked when they were alive on the altar. Favorite food of loved ones is made so they can take it with them to the afterlife.

Mexican marigolds are vibrant orange flowers seen throughout houses in Mexico. The belief behind the flowers is the Mexican marigolds help to guide loved ones back to them.

The face painting is a mixture of Aztec and European symbolism, according to Holidappy. The tradition mixes Catholic beliefs with the religions of indigenous Mexican people. The most popular designs, according to Holidappy are skulls, flowers and La Calavera Catrina, which means the elegant skull.

There are more modern approaches to the holiday. Those who celebrate it might decorate the graves of their families. They also leave flower petals to make a pathway back to their house for spirits to follow. The families are kept alive through spirit and memories.

“Dias de los Muertos is a holiday where you celebrate the lives of your ancestors and your loved ones that have died or someone you knew that has passed,” said freshman Michelle Finch. “They put out orange flowers and it is supposed to help lead the ancestors to your house to party together. It’s a time to not be sad about the deaths of the past, but to be happy about the life you have.”

The University Program Council Culture and Education Committee will host a Dias de los Muertos event Nov. 1 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the amphitheatre. There will be a taco bar, live music and free shirts. A showing of “Coco” will play in the Guillot University Center performance center at 7 p.m.