Día de Muertos

The origins of Día de Muertos (the original name for Día de Los Muertos) date back hundreds of years to a summer-time Aztec festival in central and south Mexico. Overtime, with European influence, it became associated with the Wwstern Christian observance of All Spirits' and All Souls' days, which fall on October 31, November 1st and 2nd. It is now celebrated throughout Mexico.

Day of the Dead celebrations are based in the belief that the souls of the ones gone, can come back to this world on these days.
An altar (ofrenda) for the dead that our cruiser community created.

Day of the Dead altars (ofrendas) are the most prominent feature in this celebration because they show the souls the way to their home. Altars make the souls feel welcomed and show them they have not been forgotten.

The eve of October 31st, Day of the Dead altars for the children who have passed are set. The altars will include babies breath flowers, their white color symbolizing the purity of the children's souls. Children's altars include things like hot chocolate, candies and toys that are removed or eaten on November 1st.

The art on the ground is made of rice, beans, bark and marigolds.

Altars in the plaza, made by the local middle school students.

Students putting their altar together

An altar for a famous Mexican musician.

On the eve of November 1st the adults are honored by placing marigolds along with the loved one's favorite foods and items on the altar, usually with a photo of the deceased. 

Some of the items on or around the altars mean different things. Like the placing of the image of a loved one is said to make them present. Flowers are believed will make the returning souls feel happy and welcome. Marigolds in particular are often used to make a path to the altar, to show the way for the souls.

We added to our community's altar for my dad.
We added his favorites like Oreos and 'bug juice'.
Marigolds are the main flower for Day of the Dead

The arch over the altar symbolizes the entrance to the world of the dead. Pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread) is one of the most important elements on the altar. It is an offering to the souls in the Catholic sense. Candy skulls represent the departed souls, often decorated with smiling faces and the person's name. Usually there is food from the region in Mexico and the soul's favorite foods on the altar.
This arch shows the entrance to the world of the dead.
You can buy pan de muerto at all of the stores and bakeries
Grinning skulls are found on nearly all altars.
Fruits from the region are placed on the altar.

Candles show the souls the way to the altar and back to the dead world, they symbolize light, hope and faith. A glass of water is commonly placed on the altar to calm the soul's thirst after their long journey.
The lighting of the candles.

Local kids checking out our handiwork

Our final display with candles leading the way.

The souls will only take the essence of food and drinks, so at the end or during the celebration, the family will gather and eat and drink the offerings.

Altars are found in homes, churches, businesses, plazas and anywhere else people want to create one. Our cruiser community in La Cruz made a group altar, honoring friends, pets, family and cruisers from our past. In addition to the display of altars, parades, music and festivals are common. It is also tradition for families to visit the cemetery of their families. They clean up and decorate the tombstones and gravesites, create altars, and even stay for picnics and reminiscing. Day of the dead is a time of remembrance and celebration, not mourning.

One of the most lovely things I witnessed over the 3 days was the respect people have for these altars. Our altar was placed outdoors in a public area for 3 days. I often saw people going out of their way to stop and quietly look at our altar. Families would talk about it and kids would point to photos. There were nice candles, dishes and ornaments placed around and on our altar. While the wind blew some things around and some local stray dogs ran through our paths, no one took or destroyed our offerings. It felt like the locals were really honoring and welcoming our loved ones.

Creating our altar for cruisers families, friends and pets

Hailey placing Poppa Dean in an honorary spot.

Poppa Dean

The youth of the community put on a presentation for Día de los Muertos

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