While people in the U.S. are looking forward to planning what costumes to wear during the end of October, there is another holiday many people are excited to celebrate during this time of the year. Today we are talking about Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) for our au pairs from Mexico. Day of the Dead is celebrated from the 31st of October until the 2nd of November with origins in Aztec spiritual practices. Each day is dedicated to remembering a certain group of loved ones - November 1st is for children and November 2nd is for adults.
Recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, during this special holiday Mexican families gather together to celebrate the lives of their family members who have passed away, and remember them with joy rather than with grief. It is believed that loved ones return to their families during this time, so the living try to make it easier for souls to come back home by placing bright marigold flowers on a special altar. These marigolds work as a path for souls to follow and ultimately arrive at the ofrenda their family has prepared.
Families place many different items on their ofrendas to help guide the soul back home. Typically, photos of the deceased are placed on an altar with some snacks and treats that they loved during their lives. These preparations are called ofrendas, meaning ‘offerings’ to treat the dead, and after the spiritual visit, the families share the food with their friends and neighbors.
Unlike most concepts that describe death as a thing to be sad and be scared about, Mexican culture has embraced Día de Muertos and death as something to celebrate. It is also a popular way for people to celebrate with skull makeup, flower costumes, and special treats. People make colorful skull-shaped treats with sugar, often writing the names to represent those who have departed this world earlier. This holiday is an important part of Mexican culture, and it shows us a different way to remember our loved ones and their passing.
If you’re an au pair from Mexico, share how you are celebrating this holiday! Or, take a moment to think about the afterlife differently by visiting a Day of the Dead celebration in your local community.