Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is a holiday that has been celebrated for thousands of years. The goal of the celebration is to honor and pray for deceased friends and family members. Although tied to the Catholic holy days of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, which fall on the same calendar dates (Nov. 1st & 2nd), the origins of the modern holiday can be traced to indigenous observances, most specifically to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl or "The Lady of the Dead".
The celebration of the the Day of the Dead has gained particular importance in Mexican and Mexican American communities but is an observed public holiday in both Brazil and Spain as well. Get in on the festivities and plan your own Dia de Los Muertos Party by following our easy guide below!
• Buy a stack of Dia de los Muertos postcards featuring illustrations from Jose Guadalupe Posada, the “Father of Modern Mexican Art,” and use them to hand-write invitations to your fiesta.
• Ask guests to bring masks and pictures of their lost loved ones.
• Make sugar skulls the day before; find instructions and supplies at dayofthedeadmercado.com.
• Create an altar: Drape a card table and a couple of milk crates in colorful fabric, and decorate it with scented candles and photos of your deceased family and friends. Then add ofrendas for those who have gone on: yellow and orange marigolds, oranges, soap, favorite foods of the deceased, candy, pan de muerto and a glass of water to sooth parched mouths after the long trip back to the living world.
• Handmade decorations are key. Create your own paper flowers with crepe paper and pipe cleaners; there is a great guide here.
• Complete your room with skeleton papel picado banners, copal incense and more candles—the aroma is thought to guide the dead home.
• Make your bisabuela’s favorite mole, or start an assembly line and churn out tamales.
• Satisfy guests’ sweets cravings with skull-shaped treats and candied pumpkin. Find a recipe here.
• Bake enough pan de muerto for both the alter and your guests. Use this recipe.
—Kenrya Rankin Naasel