Dia De Los Muertos

My family has celebrated Dia De Los Muertos since I can barely remember. In Mexico, it was a national Holiday, and school was closed. Dia de Los Muertos is November 2.

Dia de Los Muertos is not Mexican Halloween, or a continuation of Halloween. It's not scary, it's a family event in which we remember and honor family and friends who have died. It is believed their spirits come to visit us on this day, and it's a celebration of their lives.

When I lived in Mexico, early in the morning, we would go buy our flowers, and food and head to my Grandmother's house. There we would get more flowers and head to the Cemetery. I have very blurry memories of how we got to the cemetery, as it was roughly 3 miles away. But I remember everybody was carrying flowers.

Part of the ritual of Dia De los Muertos is cleaning the graves of our family members. We took great pride and work on making sure that their graves were the nicest we could manage.

After we got home, we would prepare the food for the day. It was like a quiet party, and my family would share stories of my great grandparents.

Another big part of Dia De los Muertos was setting up the Altar. My grandmother would dig out pictures of her Mom, her Dad, her Father In Law, her Mother In Law. She lined up candles, water, food and flowers.

The Altar de Muertos is an offering to those who have died. An invitation for their spirits to visit us on Dia de Los Muertos.

My altar from last year
I can't participate on the cleaning and decorations of my grandparents graves, so I try my best at an Altar de Muertos at home.

Sadly, this year I have one more family member to add to my altar. I do my altar  because of love for the family members who have passed.

I set up my Altar with the basics below and a short explanation.

Water- for the spirits to drink from their long journey.
Pictures of the people who have died and are being remembered.
Salt- For purification
Religious images - This one is a difficult one every year! I was raised catholic, but don't really practice the religion, so I have no religious images at my house.
Food- The food that those departed enjoyed when they were with us.
Candy- The candy that they enjoyed. Also, this is more for the spirits of Children.
Alcohol- tequila, beer. (I put whatever Roger has, because I don't have a stockpile of Tequila)
Flowers- to celebrate their return.
Candles- to light their way
Pan De Muerto-  I only learned recently that Pan de Muerto (sweet bread) is covered in pink sugar for adults and white sugar for kids. In the absence of pan de muerto last year, I put out a donut. My son saw it on the table and ate it.

There is other things that I don't put in the altar de Muertos, only because of time. Like paper Mache, paper flowers, sugar skulls, and personal items. This year, I made paper flowers and paper cutouts!

Funny story- When my son was 4, I told him that we were setting up the Altar for our loved ones who had died and that their spirits were coming to visit. He got really excited and helped me set up everything, he even helped me clean his room. Later on the day, he came to me and asked "Mom, When are our family members coming? We have been waiting ALL DAY!!"

This year, my Altar de Muertos is dedicated to the following : Abuela Ninfita, Abuelo Simon, Tio Ruben, Tio Abel, Tio Martin, Tio Juan, Abuela Juana, Abuelo Francisco, Tia Toña, Tia Isabel, cousin Migue, my nephew Mario, Great Grandma Nina.

I know this is might be a new concept for some of you, but on this Dia De los Muertos, who will you remember? whose life will you celebrate?


  1. Such a nice tradition!

    1. It really is wonderful!

  2. I always thought it was a beautiful holiday. Though I always thought it was November 1st - the day of the dead, or is that something else?

    1. Thank you Heather! From what I remember, November 1st is for kids and babies. Mainly babies who were not baptized, as the holiday has catholic influences.

  3. One of the reasons I like your blog is that I learn about holidays, traditions, and foods I would otherwise not know much about! Thanks for sharing it on here. :) I think the more we understand other people's cultures the more we are connected!

    1. Thank you! this holiday has always been a favorite of mine.

  4. I think this is such a beautiful tradition. I love that you were able to hear your family tell stories of your great grand-parents. This is such a great way to instill a sense of family and continuity. That story about your son eating the doughnut is pretty funny :)

    1. It is one of my favorites! The one story that I always remember was the one about my mom hitting my great Grandma back, to prove that her hand would not dry up (another Mexican tale).

      My son loves his donuts!

  5. Oh, thank you for teaching us about this! I wish I grew up with more culture. Our family was so BORING. Well, not boring (super dysfunctional... woohoo! lol) but no real traditions or parties or festivals or anything like that. I WANT TO BE MEXICAN. Please, and thank you. Adopt me? ;)

    1. Consider yourself adopted. Just a quick warning, we are all clingy and have no ability to sit still. Welcome to the family!

  6. Thanks for sharing this information on Dia De Los Muertos! My running buddy is our Spanish teacher and she lived in Nicaragua for a few years; she met her husband there. She teaches Dia De Los Muertos in class and she's usually my go-to person, but she's fairly new to the holiday (and she brings a Nicaraguan perspective to this Mexican holiday - I asked her if most Central and South American countries celebrate it and she said yes to varying degrees - is that true?) so I appreciate your insights!!


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