The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), celebrated on November 1 and 2, isn't just any ordinary holiday – it's a vibrant Mexican fiesta where families welcome back the spirits of their departed loved ones.
This celebration offers a unique opportunity to cherish the memories of those who have passed with colorful decorations, and lots of delicious food and drinks!
Let's dive deeper into this enchanting tradition with 5 lesser-known facts:
1. Flowers are used to attract spiritsIn Mexico, marigolds, or "cempasúchil", are believed to serve as the guiding pathway for souls to return to the mortal world. Their vibrant orange and yellow petals light the way for the departed, ensuring they find their way back home.
Little tidbit: Marigolds’ distinct scent is meant to attract spirits back to their living relatives' homes.
Image source: https://lajollamom.com/the-role-marigolds-play-in-dia-de-los-muertos/
2. The furry guides to the afterworldWhen the holiday is over, dogs are believed to play a very special role. According to legend, Xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican Hairless Dogs, help guide spirits back to heaven. Because of this, dogs are often incorporated into decorations to honor their important role.
Little tidbit: Xoloitzcuintli is one of the most ancient dog breeds, with roots dating back to a staggering 3,500 years!
Image source: https://www.reddit.com/r/rarepuppers
3. Grave TLCFamilies go to great lengths to clean and decorate their loved ones' graves. Beyond remembrance, it's a way to show respect and love to those who have passed.
Little tidbit: Families often include a washbowl and soap in their offerings as a way for spirits to freshen up after their journey.
4. La Calavera Catrina – the most famous skeletonThis tall, elegant female skeleton dressed in a fashionable feathered hat is the most famous symbol of the Day of the Dead. She represents Mexico’s willingness to have a lighthearted view on death and acts as a reminder that we all leave this world as equals.
Little tidbit: La Calavera Catrina was not originally created for the Day of the Dead, but as a satirical portrait of Mexican aristocracy by José Guadalupe Posada.
5. It’s Mexico’s biggest holidayThe Day of the Dead is Mexico’s biggest religious holiday (even bigger than Christmas!). Celebrations include parades, parties at cemeteries as well as gatherings that take place at home.
Little tidbit: The Day of the Dead has deep-rooted connections to the Aztecs, with a history dating back approximately 3,000 years.
Learn more about the Day of the Dead with our picture book, A Marvelous Mexican Misunderstanding. The story follows our buddy Adri and his family's move to Mexico. This funny tale is a great way to teach littles about new traditions and introduce them to the concept of loss.