Dia De Los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance


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Hennessy Gonzalez, OwlFeed News Reporter

Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) is a two-day celebration that allows the living to reunite with their deceased loved ones. Many cultures take this holiday very seriously, and homes across America are participating in this holiday. It is a time to honor and remember those who have departed. This holiday not only celebrates death but also life, and how fragile and important it is. Day of the Dead is unlike any other holiday, and it is such a beautiful way for the living to honor their dead. Instead of mourning, we celebrate and continue on legacies that are way above us. Our dead are not dead to us until we have failed to remember and cherish them. 

When is Day of the Dead? 

Dia De Los Angelitos: November 1st, 12 am 

Day of the Little Angels begins November 1st at midnight, and it is believed to bring all the deceased children back once again to reunite with their families for 24hrs. Families create altars with the departed child’s favorite toys, candies, photographs, and snacks, to inspire a visit from their little angel. The names of these children are often written on sugar skulls. 

Dia De Los Difuntos: November 2nd, 12 am

On November 2nd at midnight the celebrations take another route and begin to now celebrate the deceased adults. Just as the night before this night is filled with laughter, love, and many many memories. However, the altars have a little more spice to them. They include tequila, pan de muerto, mezcal, pulque, and jars of Atole. Families will often come all together and dance, play games, sing, and reminisce about cherished memories. 

Dia De Los Muertos: November 2nd, Noon 

The next day is the grand finale and the biggest celebration of all. In modern days, people come together in their cities, dressed up with Calavera-painted faces (Skeleton), and have lively parades in the streets. Cemetery visits are also most common on this day and families visit the graves of their loved ones. The graves are always cleaned up and restored with color. They will leave marigold flowers, gifts, and sugar skulls with the departed’s name on them. 

How do people celebrate Day Of The Dead?

Calaveras: Calaveras (skulls) are ubiquitous during this holiday. The skulls are usually drawn on with smiles, as if they are laughing at death itself. They come in many appearances such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most memorable: face painting. Another thing is sugar skulls, they are most often made and placed on Ofrendas of loved ones. A Calavera is a decorative skull made, most usually by hand, from either sugar (called Alfeniques) or clay. These Calaveras are extremely essential and are heavily used during this time. 

Flor de Muerto: Marigolds are said to be the flower that leads the dead back to their ofrendas. The flower’s bright colors and sweet scent attract the souls so they can come back to feast on their favorites. They are called “Flor De Muerto” (Flower Of The Dead) and they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. 

Ofrendas: The one tradition that holds the most importance and meaning is Ofrendas. The Ofrenda is what the whole celebration is about; it is a collection of items specially made for the person being honored. They usually have bright yellow marigolds, photos of the departed, and the favorite drinks and foods of the deceased. These offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead, many believe the dead hear the music and smell the aroma, and this is what brings them back to the place they once loved. To go more in-depth about the altar, a brightly colored Oilcloth covers the table, and on top sits a collection of photographs and personal items of the departed person. The lower portion consists of offerings, from traditional Mexican Cuisine to other items that represent the taste of the person being honored. The Ofrendas hold a huge place in many people’s hearts and they are such a beautiful way to honor someone. 

Some ways to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos in Arizona

Mesa: Mesa Arts celebrates the Day Of The Dead with their own little version of a celebration. Everyone gets together here and enjoys multiple food vendors, performances, artists, and community-organized activities. Ofrendas are also made by families, artists, and community organizations. These Ofrendas are put up for view at an altar competition. Food vendors this year will consist of Arizona Roasted Corn, Paletas Betty, Taqueria Las Palmas, Sonora Sam Hot Dogs, Don Fito’s Taqueria, Olanie’s Caribbean Food, Poky’s Cocina and Amigos AZ Agua Frescas. 

Phoenix: The Mikiztli Festival will also be held this year, and this will be its 11th annual celebration. It will be held at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix. At the event, a community altar, music, dance, arts, food, and masked performances will all be featured. Most notably there will also be ancient ceremonial practices, like the Danza Mexica which is a form of ancestral worship to what the Aztecs described as the four sacred directions, North, South, East, and West. There will also be a market where artists will display and sell their work. 

Details: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30. Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. Free. http://diadelosmuertosphx.com/#top.

Tempe: Noche Para Los Ninos is a celebration in Tempe more focused on children. It is hosted at the Arizona Heritage Center in Papago Park. There is live music, food, drinks, and a photography display from Kids in Focus. There is also a silent art auction and raffle. Kids In Focus is a Phoenix non-profit organization aiming to mentor at-risk youth. Proceeds from this event go to the funding of this group’s photography programs. The dress code for this event is festive black cocktail attire, but they also encourage splashes of bright color to continue with the Day of the Dead theme. Organizers will often insist for the community to come out with Calavera face paintings. 

Details: 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. Arizona Heritage Center, 1300 N. College Ave., Tempe. $200 per person. https://kidsinfocus.org.