Celebrating Life: The Traditions and Significance of The Day of Dead

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Andrea Chavez
A table decorated to celebrate Day of the Dead.

Imagine a festive Mexican tradition that honors and remembers loved ones who have passed away with colorful celebrations and intricate altars. That's the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos. This day is celebrated over multi-day period at the beginning of November. This Mexican tradition happily celebrates life while honoring those who have passed away. Mexican families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drinks, and celebration.

The History

The Day of the Dead is believed to be a bridge between the spiritual realm and the real world, intertwining them together. During this brief period that this bridge is open, it is believed that the souls of the dead awaken and return to the living world to celebrate life with their loved ones by feasting, drinking, dancing, and playing music with their loved ones by their gravesites or at ofrendas, altars set up in homes to welcome home the souls of the dead. Ofrendas can be decorated with candles and bright marigolds called cempasuchils. The living family members treat the deceased as honored guests in their celebrations of life.

Portrayal in Movies

Have you ever seen the Disney Pixar movie “Coco"? It wonderfully depicts how lovely the tradition of the Day of the Dead can be. Sometimes this tradition is depicted as merely a holiday, but it holds a special place in my heart. I proudly embrace my Mexican heritage. Even though I wasn't born in Mexico; my parents were.

What it Means to Me

As Mexican-Americans, we acknowledge that our experiences differ from those of Mexicans living in Mexico. Nevertheless, we make sincere efforts to connect with our heritage. One significant way I do this is by celebrating the Day of the Dead, a tradition that not everyone in my culture observes, making it unique to our Mexican-American identity. To me, the Day of the Dead serves as a reminder that our loved ones are deserving of celebration, whether they are still with us or not. The Day of the Dead isn't just a special occasion for me; it's a beautiful tradition and illustration of the lasting connections that tie us to our history, our ancestors, and our origins.

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