Many Latin American countries celebrate el Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in November. During the Day of the Dead celebrations, people honor the loved ones that have passed. The Catholic holidays of Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd, Day of The Dead celebrations vary from one country and region to another. But one thing we all have in common is that the countries celebrating Dia de Los Muertos honor the dead and positively remember them while keeping our Latino culture alive.
Day of The Dead Celebrations Across The Continent
You can track Día de Los Muertos back to the indigenous cultures hundreds of years ago. Pre-Columbian civilizations have practiced rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. It was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. Day of the Dead celebrations have morphed over the years to become the Latino tradition it is now. Decorative altars, colorful flowers, and delicious food are all integral to the Day of The Dead festivities.
Where is the Day of The Dead Celebrated?
Mexico is best known for its Día de Los Muertos celebrations which include pageantry, processions, and public display of altars to the dead. In the Andean regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, families gather in cemeteries to remember ancestors and loved ones. They bring food offerings such as colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge made with Andean blackberry and purple maize. In addition, guagua de pan is another popular food, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant filled with cheese or guava.
In Brazil, the holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead) is on November 2nd. People go to cemeteries and churches with flowers, candles, and prayer to celebrate those who have passed away in a positive way. In Bolivia, the Día de las ñatitas, or Day of the Skulls, is an ancient Bolivian ritual celebrated on November 9th. Skulls of ancestors are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves, and other treats to bring good luck to the family.
When is Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos Celebrated?
Although it may vary from one country to the next, the Day of the Dead celebrations takes place during November. Some countries like Guatemala and Spain call November 1st Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day). And on November 2nd, it is a different celebration called Día de Los Fieles Difuntos or All Souls Day. Other Latin American countries like Mexico celebrate Día de Los Muertos for more than one day, starting on November 1st and ending on the 2nd.
El Día de Los Muertos in Guatemala
As October ends, flower stands bloom on every corner of Guatemala City. Kite vendors’ displays sway in the brisk November winds, and marketplaces and cemeteries are full of multicolored flowers. Finally, on November 1st, families gather to celebrate All Saints Day and eat fiambre. It is a traditional salad-like cold dish that consists of assorted cold cuts, pickled vegetables, and meats. It is so complex that it can easily include 50 or more ingredients.
Day of The Dead Guatemalan Traditions
Many people, especially in rural areas, visit the cemetery to clean the graves of their loved ones. Then, they honor their ancestors with flowers and incense. In addition, you will see many families sharing a picnic of fiambre, Tamales, and sometimes booze with them at the cemetery.
Giant Kite Festival
The most spectacular Day of the Dead celebrations in Guatemala occurs in the towns of Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango. Townspeople assemble giant kites or barriletes gigantes, reaching diameters of almost 30ft, made of bamboo rods and colored paper ready to paint the sky. On November 1st, the famous Guatemalan kite festival takes place, and these giant kites with intricate designs attempt to take flight, but most of them never make it.
Sometimes some of the smaller ones (15-18ft in diameter) take off briefly only to come crashing down, occasionally landing on the crowd below. All through November, kites dot the clear blue sky. Although most people have forgotten the original significance of this as a means of communicating with the dead and showing them where to come down to visit their family, flying kites is one of my favorite family traditions.
In my country, Guatemala, the celebration of El Día de Los Muertos or Día de Los Difuntos is more of a family holiday. The Dia de Los Muertos traditions in Guatemala include traditional Guatemalan foods, unique festivals, and visits to the graveyard. For me, it marks the beginning of a season filled with traditional family holidays. It starts with El Día de los Muertos and then continuing with La Quema del Diablo, Las Posadas, Noche Buena, Navidad and Año Nuevo.
More Day of The Dead Celebrations and Ideas You’ll Love
Now that we live in the United States, we enjoy Halloween and El Día de Los Muertos, blending traditions. We love making new ones in a way that makes sense to us. So, here are other Dia de Los Muertos ideas and recipes you will surely love!
If you’re looking for Dia de Los Muertos recipes, you’ve come to the right place. These recipes include everything from pan de Muerto and decorated sugar skulls to traditional Mexican dishes.
Embrace the Dia de Los Muertos holiday with these incredible crafts ideas with Cricut. Break out your Cricut and do a project with your kids! These Day of the Dead SVG files for Cricut are perfect for your Day of the Dead altar. Plus, they make for awesome decorations for your home or as offerings.
Here are 25 easy-to-make Day of the Dead DIY crafts. Some of these are so easy they will only take a few minutes to make. Many of these Day of the Dead arts would make incredible decorations for a Latino-inspired party!
These kid-friendly party ideas are perfect if you’re planning a Dia de Los Muertos celebration. From sugar skull-inspired recipes to colorful decorations, there are many ideas for your Dia de Muertos party.