Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world. The holiday focuses on gatherings to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008, UNESCO inscribed the tradition in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In Mexico, the day is a public holiday. Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. It was moved to October 31, November 1, and November 2 to coincide with the Roman Catholic triduum of Allhallowtide: All Saints' Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas; honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed; and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world, being absorbed within other deep traditions for honoring the dead. It happens to be a holiday that has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation's schools, but there are families who are more inclined to celebrate a traditional "All Saints Day" associated with the Catholic Church.
On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds; the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense; and other traditional foods and decorations.
The Days of the Dead:
Sunday October 29th, 2017
Dia de Los Muertos/ Day of the Dead. Hands-on activities for ages 3 to 103. Enjoy live music, write a memorial leaf for the tree of life on the community altar, and enjoy seasonal refreshments. Costumes are encouraged, not required. Admission is FREE for EVERYONE!
October 27th-29th on the Plaza (Procession November 2nd)
Expect lots of music, dancing, a parade, food, activities for kids and arts vendors. This community event is free to the public. Donation of non-perishable food items is encouraged.
In Albuquerque, Día de los Muertos celebrations take place over several weeks in October and November, though the holiday is traditionally celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd.
Families remember deceased loved ones and honor them by building offering altars (ofrendas) where sugar skulls are placed, along with offerings of bread (pan de muertos). Although the subject matter may not be, the holiday itself is festive, as spirits are welcomed back into peoples' lives for another year.