Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a holiday celebrated on 1st and 2nd November each year. It is a Mexican holiday that helps people honour their loved ones who passed away and welcome their spirits back at home. It is believed that on October 31 the gates of heaven are opened and all of the spirits are allowed to come down to the world of the living and reunite with their families. On November 1st, the spirits of late young ones can visit their families while on November 2nd the spirits of adults are allowed to return to their relatives and enjoy all of the festivities specially prepared for them. Day of the Dead is meant to celebrate the memory of late loved ones and help them find their way back home. Here are 3 of the traditional symbols of the holiday:
1. Creating beautiful ofrendas (altars)
Families set up special altars called ofrendas to welcome the spirits back home and offer them some of the most favourite drinks, foods and items of the deceased. Sweet candies and toys are left for the spirits of small children. Lots of flowers are used to decorate the altars and add more festivity.
2. Decorating with flowers
One of the symbols of Day of the Dead is the Mexican cempasuchil (wild marigold flower). It is believed that the sweet scent and bright colours of the marigold guide the spirits to the altars prepared for them. The flowers are used to adorn not only the ofrendas, but doorway arches and graves as well. Despite its vibrancy and cheerfulness, the marigold is considered to be the “flower of the dead”.
3. Using skulls and skeletons
Skulls and skeletons are widely used on the Day of the Dead as a reminder that death is an inevitable part of life. Sugar and chocolate sculls are gifted to friends and family members. A popular symbol of the holiday is “La Catrina” which is a female skeleton who wears a bright and colourful dress. It is also used to symbolize that people shouldn’t be scared of death but accept it as something normal in life.