New Mexico is a melding of many cultures and ways of life both modern and centuries-old. These are woven together to form a vibrant tapestry of people and traditions unlike anything else in the nation. When we gather to celebrate Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), we honor not only our ancestors and loved ones who have died more recently, but our heritage as well.
A Mexican holiday dating back hundreds of years, Día de los Muertos originated with the Aztecs. Before Spanish colonization, the celebration took place during the summer. Later it was moved to autumn in order to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.
The modern iteration of the Día de los Muertos includes three days representing three related, but separate, ideologies — chock full of inspiring traditions that bring both closure as well as the feeling of time spent with a loved one who has passed. The celebrations are bright and elaborate, and they include the building of ofrendas (private altars) in celebration of the departed; honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds (the flower of the dead), and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed; and bringing gifts and belongings to graves. Other traditions include muertos (the bread of the dead); cardboard skeletons; tissue paper garlands; fruit and nuts; incense; and other traditional foods and decorations. The holiday is now celebrated around the world, and each culture brings their own unique twist to it.
The three days celebrate those who came before us and who have passed on. Death is an integral part of life, and one that we all experience, and Día De Los Muertos celebrations bring comfort and understanding instead of fear. During the end of October into early November, gatherings and parades are held throughout the state. Whether you celebrate every year or you’re simply checking it out for the first time, these community celebrations welcome you with open arms as you honor your own loved ones.
The Days of the Dead:
Sunday October 28th, 2018
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!
November 2nd 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.