Mexico welcomes departed souls that come back to earth, at Day of the Dead celebrations. This occurs every year on November 1 and 2nd. People gather at their homes and cemeteries to remember their departed friends and relatives. Many Americans have seen Skeletons when reading about this celebration, and automatically think it is Mexico’s version of Halloween, but it is not. The celebration is a time to reflect and honor the deceased and celebrate life.

Many Americans have no idea of how much effort is put into this holiday. Women spend hours organizing flowers for grave-sites. Music can be often heard, because families and friends play the deceased favorite songs. Food is a very important part of honoring them, as well.

In homes, families make alters and cover them with flowers and burn incense for the spirits to enjoy. Usually there are photos of the deceased and statues of saints. Also, on the table are fruits and vegetables along with other prepared traditional foods that are later given away and/or eaten.

The foods that are prepared are made to please the spirits, so naturally the best foods to make are the ones that the deceased enjoyed the most on earth. So you will witness families and friends creating their deceased loved one’s favorite dishes. It is popular to see Moles and Tamales made for the Day of the Dead celebration because they are hard to make dishes and are usually only made for special occasions.

Day of the Dead loaves of bread displayed at a bakery

In its purest form, the “Day of the Dead” bread is simply a circular loaf with inserted “bones” or “bones and a little ball” in the center.

Breads are common in Day of the Dead celebrations. The breads are sweet and rich with eggs and they vary in different regions of the country. Bakeries hire extra workers to make more bread during this time, because they are in great demand. The breads are also made into different shapes. Round shaped bread is the most common, but they can be shaped into people or animals to represent the deceased whom they are honoring.

Sugar Candy skulls are popular among children. It is a big treat for them similar to Christmas and Easter candies. Sugar skulls are traditional folk art that is from central and southern Mexico which is used every year to celebrate Day of the Dead. Vendors sell many colorful sugar skulls the week before the celebration. The skulls are made by the sugar being pressed into molds and then dried. Once the skulls are dried, they are decorated with colorful icing and even sometimes with non-edible items such as colorful feathers and sequins. Although the skulls are popular, traditional Halloween candy is now competing with the sugar skulls making the skulls hard to find in the South of Mexico.

Chocolate and Sugar Candy Skulls being sold at a shop in Mexico.

Chocolate candies in all shapes are now just as popular as the Sugar Candy Skulls sold during the celebration.

Besides the sugar skulls, chocolate is another common favorite. Pumpkin candies can also be found where there are children celebrating the day. It consists of big green Mexican pumpkins that are grown for specifically making the candy.

Pumpkin candies made for the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico

A large array of candies are made and sold specifically during this time of year. Pictured here are hand-made pumpkin candies.

It takes much planning and hard work to take part in this event. This celebration gives Mexicans a sense of pride to remember and honor their friends and family members who have died. If you ever plan on visiting Mexico, try to visit during this time of year. It is beautiful to see how much love and respect people have for their loved ones that have passed away and possibly be inspired to take back this tradition to your homeland.

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