It is believed that during the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos), the spirits of the departed make their annual visits to loved ones they have left behind.
In Mexico, it is a special time to honor and remember the lives of departed family members.
Its observance depends on the region. In more urban cities such as Guadalajara, it is limited with a few exceptions here and there, however, you will still see it in cemeteries such as El Pantéon de Belén.
They even have a famous "night tour." So, be sure to visit if you happen to be there. Check out some pictures of the cemetery during Day of the Dead and more great pics. (Opens new window)
I once had the pleasure of visiting Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration, which falls on November 1 and 2. It was over 10 years ago but I still remember the sights, sounds and scents vividly.
Now that I think back on that day, I realize how lucky I was to have experienced it. I really had no idea what I was witnessing at the time, all I knew is that it was a beautiful sight and one I would love to see again. I think you will really enjoy it too.
I was with my grandfather and my 2 sisters when we were teens.
We walked towards the many vendors selling so many different trinkets and food right outside the cemetery. They were selling flowers such as the popular "flower of the dead," which is the Marigold or known as Cempasuchitl, (zempasuchitl).
These are used to decorate the altars in homes and to also decorate the gravesites of the dead.
There were lots of toy figurines being sold in the shape of skeletons (calacas) and toy skulls (calaveras).
Some of the skeletons had little sombreros on and some had little Mexican dresses as well as other costumes and silly outfits. They were really fun to look at and fun to play with. I think that the toys help to make it fun for the children and they also lighten up the festivities.
After all, Day of the Dead is a very special celebration of life and a very festive one at that.
Another very common item you'll see and a must for Day of the Dead are the sugar skulls. If you're lucky enough to be in Mexico during this time you'll certainly catch a glimpse of them.
Day of the Dead would not be complete without it.
Sugar skulls are brightly decorated skulls made of sugar and are edible but are mostly used for decorative purposes for the altars (ofrendas). They are also given as trinkets to friends and family.
The sugar skulls usually have the name of the deceased written across the forehead or they can also be plain. I've heard if you keep them dry they can last for months.. even a year.
We walked inside the cemetery grounds, (it was already dusk by this time) and saw many beautiful whitewashed tombs. Family members of the deceased were tending to the graves of their loved ones.
Click here to see some cemetery pictures of Guadalajara.
Women were sweeping up leaves and working hard to make the gravesite inviting. Candles were also placed on the tombs as well as flowers.
The atmosphere was so friendly and happy, I wish it was something I could witness more often. Day of the Dead is a beautiful celebration to honor the lives of the dead. If you're in Mexico during this time, you will not want to miss it.
If you're looking for some cool cemetery legends check out the haunted cemetery in Guadalajara.
Dia de los Muertos is on November 1 and 2, but starts as early as October 31, when the souls of departed children are believed to start their visits. To celebrate this fun holiday, one or all of the following tips can be implemented.
1. Build an altar
Altars are built to greet the spirits of the dead from their long trip. To build an altar, set aside a desk in a corner of your home.
Decorate it with candles, favorite foods of your loved ones and pictures as well as other items they enjoyed when they were alive.
Decorate the altar with flowers. The traditional flower used during Day of the Dead in Mexico is the Marigold.
2. Visit the grave of your loved one
In Mexico, it is traditional for families to go to the cemeteries and paint and spruce up the grave of their loved one.
Many times, a picnic is made and families will gather around and talk about their dearly departed and all the good times shared.
3. Make sugar skulls
During this time, colorfully decorated sugar skulls are sold as trinkets for children and visitors. They are also used to decorate the altars in homes. One big plus is that they are also edible.
The easiest way to "make" sugar skulls is to buy them ready made and then decorate them with different colored frostings. This is really fun and something your whole family can do together.
Check out some of these Dia de los Muertos art projects to work on.
Check out some cool haunted cemetery legends here.