The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a very old holiday observed on November 2, when all souls of the dead are believed to return to the world of the living. It’s primarily celebrated in Mexico and in Mexican-American communities, honoring those who have deceased. Practiced initially by Indigenous cultures, Día de Muertos was later adopted by the Catholic faith (after the Spanish arrived in the 16th century) to coincide with All Souls’ Day.
During this special time, many families visit and decorate graves; some hold intimate family gatherings and create special altars (ofrendas) to remember and honor those who passed away with photos of their deceased loved ones and their favorite foods and drinks.
The Day of the Dead has become more prevalent in today’s culture, thanks to modern movies (such as Coco or James Bond) and Halloween’s popularity, as well as larger Mexican-American communities celebrating with colorful parades and processions. Sweet pastries such as Pan de Muerto, or bread of the dead (made in the shape of a skull) are traditions, as are sugary chocolate skulls. Bright flowers decorate the stalls and streets; the marigold is the symbolic flower as its bright yellow-orange petals (like the brightly-colored costumes) are beacons to welcome the souls of the dead as they return home.