On November 1 and 2, thousands will fill Mexico’s streets to joyfully celebrate some of the country’s most important (but often overlooked) citizens—the dead. How macabre! You may be thinking. After all, in America "the dead" brings to mind creepy images of dreary cemeteries and spooky ghosts with rattling chains. But forget fear, fright and the unrelated Halloween hubbub, because Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a celebration of life to welcome home the spirits of departed loved ones with open arms.
To celebrate this yearly homecoming, gravesites are covered with lit candles, vibrant marigolds, and candied skulls to greet the spiritual return of deceased children on November 1 and adults on the second day. And you better believe the wondering visitors are hungry—ofrendas (offerings) of spicy Mexican mole, posole, candied pumpkin and other traditional meals are cooked so that the spirits may feast on their aromatic essences.
The living then spends the days remembering lost loved ones and honoring their memories—Mexican tradition teaches that death is an inevitable part of life and just as worthy of praise. So instead celebrants focus on funny memories and laugh in the deceased honor.
Stateside, this Mexican holiday is growing in popularity, and now there are large festivals held in Arizona, California, Texas and other states, primarily in the Southwest. Start your own celebration at home this year with the following Mexican dishes and fond remembrances of those who came and went before you.
—By Emily Arno