What is Dia de los Muertos?

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Samantha Snyder

How is Dia de los Muertos celebrated?
By: Morgan Kafana

Dia de los Muertos, which translates to Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 by Latin Americans. The celebration began 3,000 years ago and was founded by the Aztecs.
Interestingly enough, Dia de los Muertos was celebrated as an Aztec harvest holiday in Sept.In fact, the holiday changed when Spanish conquistadors invaded and associated the holiday with All Saints Day which is celebrated as a Catholic holiday. From that belief, Dia de los Muertos changed to be celebrated in November.
On Oct. 31, it is believed that the gates of heaven are opened up to allow spirits to join the living. This day is specifically for the spirits of children, allowing them to rejoin their parents for 24 hours. Then on Nov. 2, adult spirits can rejoin with their loved ones.
“Day of the Dead became Hollywoodized in the movie Spectre. The movie opens up with a parade for Day of the Dead. Parades were never a part of the celebration and started because of the movie,” said Dr. Felipe Rojas.
During both of these days, spirits leave chicunamictlan, or the land of the dead, to feast, drink, dance, and play music. This food is offered by the living at the gravestones of the dead. Marigolds are placed on the sites of the graves and are decorated in tiers.
“The base tier represents the graveyard that the loved one is buried in. Then, there is the base which represents earth and the final top level is a symbol of heaven. Photos of the dead are placed at this top level,” said Dr. Rojas.
Skeletons (calaras) and skulls (calaveras) are the most common symbol associated with this holiday. Another iconic figure to this celebration is Mictecacihuatl whose Aztec goddess of the underworld. She is also known as a female skeleton who goes by the name of La Calavera Catrina.
To celebrate, people wear skull designed masks and eat sugar candy in the shape of skulls. Some foods that are most commonly eaten consist of spicy dark chocolates and a beverage that has a corn-based liquor, atole.
When people hear of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), they often think of an upsetting time in which Latin Americans mourn their dead. However, these celebrations are of a more joyful time for celebrating their dead. Feliz dia de los Muertos!