By Emma Myers~ Copy Editor
Patssi Valdez 1998, “Four Calaveras” taken from https://www.mexicanmuseum.org/dia-de-los-muertos?lightbox=dataItem-kgrmee4i
Día De Los Muertos, or Day Of The Dead, is a Mexican holiday, honoring death and celebrating life. It originated over 3,000 years ago and is celebrated every year for the first two days of November.
The celebration is often decorated by clay, wood or paper-mâché skulls and calaveras. These are believed to have originated from the Mexican Artist José Guadalupe Posada.
One of the most integral traditions of Día De Los Muertos is the altars created for the ofrendas, or offerings. The altar, often referred to as the ofrenda, is set up with photographs of loved ones who have passed on. This is a way to honor their memories and invite them back into the “Land Of The Living.”
The ofrendas are stacked in three different sections, the bottom representing the underworld, the middle representing earth, and the top representing heaven. There are some ofrendas that have seven different levels.
While the altars are sometimes also called ofrendas, the real “offerings” are the food and other items placed on the altars as a way to draw spirits back into the Land Of The Living.
One of the most notable offerings are “Sugar Skulls” or “Calavera De Azúcar.” Calavera De Azúcar are skulls made of sugar with the name of the loved one who passed written across its forehead.
The traditional flower of Dia De Los Muertos is the Cempasúchitl, as it has a strong aroma that is said to attract and guide spirits. It is used to decorate the graves of those who have passed.
There are many other enriching elements that are integral in making up this beautiful holiday, such as papel picado, copal and more.
Leila Sarmiento, president of the Hispanic Student Society says, “Día De Los Muertos is an important holiday for many of us [who are] part of Latin American culture… It is important to note that Día De Los Muertos is different from Halloween, and different things are celebrated on both dates.”
“Día De Los Muertos is meant to create a bridge of comfort for our loved ones to visit us once again, and for us to feel reunited and closer to them. Also, this holiday is celebrated and appreciated differently in many countries around Central and South America,” continues Sarmiento.
There will be a short introduction into the holiday along with refreshments provided. Everyone who attends is encouraged to bring a photo of their loved one.
Lyndsey Hudson, vice president of HSS encourages students to join the event.
“It’s going to be a great inclusive event! It will celebrate lost ones and we get to tell our stories and memories. Everybody is welcome to come and we had a great turn out last [year]! It was very beautiful and wholesome,” says Hudson.
Dr. Sharon Robinson, Spanish professor, says, “The Day of the Dead celebration, hosted by the Hispanic Students Society on November 1, is a wonderful opportunity for all students, not just students in Spanish classes, to explore and enjoy the rich traditions of the Day of the Dead (‘Día de los muertos’) in Mexico and other countries that celebrate it.”
Robinson continues, “Students taking Spanish would particularly benefit from this event to provide a context for any discussions about this tradition in their classes. There’s even a special bread that Mexicans make, just for this occasion, and it’s colorful and delicious. It’s called “Pan de Muertos” (“Bread of the Dead”), and it would be great fun for the students to look up a recipe online and try it. It’s very easy to make. In short, don’t miss this event! It will be well worth your time. And now, ¡Vamos a celebrar! (Let’s celebrate!)!!”
To learn more about Día De Los Muertos, be sure to check out the Hispanic Student Society’s event, and follow their instagram page for more information.
- Smithsonian Institution. (n.d.). Dia De Los Muertos. The Mexican Museum. https://www.mexicanmuseum.org/dia-de-los-muertos
- Dia De Los Muertos: Symbols and Traditions. The Grace Museum. (n.d.). https://thegracemuseum.org/learn/2020-11-4-dia-de-los-muertos-symbols-and-traditions/