Dia De Los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated on November 1 and November 2. The holiday is a celebration of the dead, through which families and friends honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. It is a day where the border between the spirit world and the world of the living opens, and the souls of the deceased can reunite with their family members and friends. Rather than the holiday being one of mourning, it is a joyous day to celebrate the people who have died with festivities and remembrance. In this way, death is seen in a positive light and as a natural part of life.
Although the Day of the Dead follows Halloween on October 31 and shares some similar traditions, such as costumes and parades, it is a separate holiday. Some people may choose to celebrate both holidays together, along with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which also fall on November 1 and November 2 respectively. The most common symbols of Dia De Los Muertos are skeletons and skulls to represent the dead. Often, candies and other food items enjoyed on the day are shaped as skulls and skeletons.
The Day of the Dead originated over 3,000 years ago when the ancient Aztec people in the land of central Mexico honored the dead through similar rituals. Today, people celebrate the holiday by visiting graves and setting up altars, known as ofrendas, in honor of loved ones who have died. Folks who celebrate will typically decorate the altars with flowers, candles, Copal incense (which is said to draw in the spirits), photos of the person of honor, and their favorite food and drinks. These are usually placed in the house or at gravesites, along with gifts, including toys for children.
Marigolds are especially added as it’s been said that these flowers attract the souls of the dead to the offerings and guide the spirits to their family’s home. Families and friends might also say prayers and chants to summon the dead. People get together to talk about and share memories of their loved ones as well. Traditions and customs may also include music and dancing.
Dia De Los Muertos has grown more popular and visible in the U.S. since the 1980s, as the Mexican-American population has also become larger and more visible. Acknowledging the holiday in the workplace shows appreciation and respect for Mexican culture, especially as this is an important holiday for many people of Mexican heritage.
Include it in your organization-wide calendar of holidays and help other employees understand what the holiday is about and its significance in Mexican cultures. Always remember that the Day of the Dead is not Halloween, nor is it a morbid or sorrowful holiday. The day is a joyous occasion to celebrate loved ones and accept death as a natural part of life. To wish someone a happy Day of the Dead, you can say “Feliz día de los Muertos.”