Mexicans and Death: How We Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos

Welcome to Poquio's dinner table!


Our relationship with death is quite unique and sometimes can be perceived as strange and even fearless. That  is not the case; death has been important in al Mesoamerican cultures.  Since the Spanish conquest of Mexico,  many different elements have been incorporated, making the celebration a mix of both worlds.

It is  believed that each person’s final destination will depend solely on how they behaved during their time in the living world.  As you can see, Mexicans have had a long-lasting relationship with death. But why do we celebrate death? Please allow me to explain it to you. 

The celebration of el dia de los muertos really allows us to lose the fear and  to better understand  what is coming to us; we will meet again with our loved ones. Once a year we have the opportunity to honor, remember and talk about them to the young ones who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn about their past and origins.

This does not mean at all that we do not fear death. We respect it, and we are in constant denial of our fear. The best way to show that is by making rhymes and songs and getting all dressed up and mock the death.

The celebration lasts just two days, but according to some grandparents, there are some preparations we need to do on the days leading to the celebration:

October 28th

The first of the white candles is lit and next to it we place white flowers.  This is to welcome all souls that are traveling alone. 

October 29th

Another white candle is lit, and a glass of water is placed next to it for all those loved ones who have been  forgotten. 

October 30th

A new white candle, a glass of water and a piece of bread are placed together for those loved ones who left on an empty stomach or died too suddenly. 

October 31st

A white candle, a fresh glass of water, the bread, and some fruit (orange, tangerine or guava) are placed together as an ofrenda for the ancestors of our ancestors (great grandparents).

November 1st

This is a day that is dedicated to the children who are not longer among us, so the food is mostly sweets -  chocolate, honey, candy and flowers.

November 2nd

This is a day also Known as “dia de los fieles difuntos” or day of the loyal death. On this day all the food comes out. Their favorite dishes are laid out all over the ofrenda: rice, beans, mole, bread, sweet bread tortillas, beer, and tequila or mezcal. 

November 3rd

The ofrenda stays one more day for those who could not make it on time, so they can also enjoy some of the food for themselves. The last white candle is lit and  the last copal incense is burned, all hoping and asking for them to come back next year. 

The celebration of el dia de los Muertos is about family;  it is a night we sit together to remember our loved ones who  are  no longer with us.  We talk about their flaws and most memorable moments, and we share pan de muerto and hot chocolate, and maybe an assortment of tamales - salty and sweet.  

We drink, we laugh, and we remember.  You cannot  avoid feeling  the emptiness at one point, maybe a couple of tears are dropped here and there.  The truth is, they are not really gone, because they live in us, in our hearts and we keep them alive when we remember and talk about them, honoring who they were and what they left behind. for us  

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