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How to Celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead

Flowery Cake of the Dead

 If you're not of Mexican heritage, you may have heard of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, and associated it with Halloween. The concept of death, as expressed through imagery of skulls and skeletons, is associated with both holidays. Día de los Muertos, however, is much more than sugar skulls and pan de muerto, or bread of the dead. Read on to learn how to celebrate Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos is part of a multi-day holiday that begins on October 31 and ends on November 2 with a celebration that coincides with All Souls' Day. This holiday has its roots in indigenous Mexican culture but is now celebrated throughout Mexico, the US, parts of Central and South America, Spain, the Philippines and other places around the world. While this is the Day of the Dead, people who celebrate are doing so in remembrance of loved ones, similar to the way Memorial Day pays tribute to service members in the US. How people celebrate Día de los Muertos varies among communities, but the basic tenet remains consistent: honor deceased loved ones through active remembrance.

The holiday begins with a somber day of reflection, where families visit gravesites or set up altars in the home with photos of the deceased, flowers, food and beverages. In Mexico, many of these altars, or ofrendas, are large, beautiful, intricately-decorated shrines to pay respect to those who have passed. Frequently, the food on the altars includes decorated sugar or chocolate skulls, other candies and favorite foods or drinks of the loved ones being honored.

If you are wondering how to celebrate Día de los Muertos through cooking, some important recipes include Bread of the Dead, or pan de muerto, Day of the Dead Shortbread Cookies—which resemble pan de muerto, and our recipe for a Flowery Cake of the Dead, featuring a decorated skull on top. Use any of these recipes to help you celebrate the Day of the Dead and to remember and honor your loved ones.

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