Home Features A celebration of life and honor: The Day of the Dead

A celebration of life and honor: The Day of the Dead

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The purpose of the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is to honor and remember those who have died, as well as to celebrate life and death. Family and friends gather to pay their respects to a deceased family member or friend. The souls of the dead can return to their living families in their homes, businesses, cemeteries, and other locations. 

The differing perspectives on the Day of the Dead are extremely interesting, as weird as they may seem to people who don’t understand the holiday. 

“The other part is just the culture like the colors and just being able to remember people who have passed away is really cool,” Sra. Jessica Yandún, a Spanish teacher, says. “Mexicans see death as a party.” 

People typically spend a lot of time arranging and cooking in their houses in preparation for the souls’ visits. They present a customary offering that combines Catholicism with ancient Mexican/Aztec cultural customs. 

Mexican families aren’t the only ones who celebrate (or want to celebrate) the Day of the Dead. 

“I would love to start celebrating, unfortunately with me coming from a non-Hispanic background, it’s been kind of difficult to get everyone on board but it would be something, once I have my own family with kids I would definitely do it,” Jeremy Rosko, a Spanish teacher, says. 

Day of the Dead is observed in classrooms and schools as well. 

“As a teacher, I like to teach my students about it, we usually do an altar here in my room,” Sra. Yandún says. “Here in school, we research about it, make little tombstones, we do like little poems to remember the people who have passed away, and some students feel weird about it because they are not used to it so I let them just pick a famous person.”

Although the Day of the Dead is officially observed on Nov. 1, there are many other occasions when it is commemorated since there is much preparation involved. The day of loved ones who were hurt or killed in accidents is Oct. 28. The day of Oct. 31 is dedicated to young spirits and children (also known as little angels) who have passed away. On Nov. 1, they honor the spirits of adults who have passed away. Last but not least, Nov. 2 is called All Souls Day, and it honors all the souls that have passed. 

The Day of the Dead is observed in a variety of ways. While some individuals choose to spend the holiday at home, others choose to visit a loved one’s grave, sitting and mingling with others. Some people prepare unique traditional delicacies on this day, such as the bread of the dead. It’s a sweet bread that is traditionally cooked in Mexico and serves as a communal offering to the deceased. 

“This year my husband has a tradition where they make baby bread. We’re going to try and do that,” Sra. Yandún says. 

Others create an altar at home and paint their sugar skulls in vivid hues. People usually choose between two celebration options: hosting a Day of the Dead feast at home or going to a procession. Some people dress up as stylish skeletons, a Day of the Dead motif. A Day of the Dead wreath, made with many colored flowers and a vibrant skull in the center, is another way that people decorate their entrances.

When putting together an ofrenda, you don’t always have to include traditional Mexican wares. You can include someone’s favorite food, even if the food originates from a different culture entirely. 

“My family is Polish so I would definitely cook some sort of Polish food,” Sr. Rosko says. “My grandmother loved her dumplings.”

The Day of the Dead can be celebrated by any family, regardless of race, although it is a Mexican tradition to honor the dead.

“So, be part of it, celebrate it, it’s not a sad thing, we would love for everybody to have fun with it. But we like to party when we talk about death, it’s like something normal Sra. Yandún says.

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Hello, my name is Alexa Cuevas and I'm currently a junior in high school. This year, I am the president of L.A.S.O. which is a Hispanic club with all of my good friends. It's basically about learning about the Hispanic culture, and we do many different activities and plan different events to do throughout the year involving the Hispanic culture.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Last year we began a tradition of making “ofrendas” in AP Bio to honor deceased scientists. It is fun to see what my students create! I love that my students learn about science while celebrating this tradition. Come to Room 253 to see their work!

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