What Día de Los Muertos means

Dia de Los Muertos is often thought of as a “Mexican Halloween,” but in reality, Dia de Los Muertos is a Latian holiday to celebrate the dead. It isn’t scary, it is a holiday to celebrate loved ones that have passed on. It is celebrated from Nov. 1-2, with each day representing different things.

Dia de Los Muertos is a two day holiday to celebrate the dead. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Cruz with Mexico Desconosido.

The first day is also known as “Dia de Los Angelitos” or “Day of the Children.” On this day, people celebrate the children that have passed on. Unlike the second day, Dia de Los Angelitos is the whole day dedicated solely to children that have died. The second day is called “Dia de Los Difuntos” or  “Day of the Deceased,” and takes place from 12 a.m.-12 p.m. on Nov. 2. During this time, all of the adults who have passed on are celebrated. 12 p.m. and beyond is officially called “Dia de Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” and everyone is celebrated.

Dia de Los Muertos was created by the Aztecs according to History.com. They believed in a cyclical view of the world and saw death as an integral part of life. The Aztecs would perform rituals to help the deceased pass through into the afterlife and so that their soul could find peace. In these rituals, they would place tools and food for the dead to help them on their journey. This was how it became custom to have a display called an “Ofrenda.”

An Ofrenda is a display of the deceased, decorated with the dead’s favorite foods and drinks. It is usually accompanied by sugar skulls with the deceased person’s name on them. These sugar skulls are also decorated with flowers since Dia de Los Muertos is meant to be a celebration of death.

Ofrendas is the way that people who celebrate day of the dead honor and remember their loved ones who have passed on. Photo courtesy of Daisy Carter.

Along with the food and drinks of the deceased on the Ofrenda there is also a trail of golden marigold flowers leading from the door to the Ofrenda. The trail is supposed to help the deceased find their way into the house and to the food and drinks on display. The flowers also symbolize a happy path to the dead and show respect for the ones who have passed on.

Dia de Los Muertos has been portrayed in many films such as “Coco” and “The Book of Life.” Both films provide a great example of what celebrating Dia de Los Muertos is really like.

On Halloween night, the Latino Student Union gathered together virtually to celebrate. The event featured a 30 question Kahoot trivia game with questions about Dia de Los Muertos. The prize for winning was a sugar skull mask, a tee-shirt with dancing skeletons and little sugar glass skulls. At the end of  the event, there was a showing of “The Book of Life.”

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“This was more than we could have asked for, especially during this time.” Javier Acunia said.

The UAA Latino Student Union is always looking for new members, if you or someone you know is interested in joining, you can sign up on their UAA life page.