Day of the Dead - Dia de Muertos
Similar to Europe, Mexico remembers its deceased on the first two days of November. But while over here, one encounters the dead on All Saints' Day and All Souls in all quietness, the Day of the Dead is one of the largest and most important Mexican holidays, celebrated in a lively and life-affirming way. At this point, we would like to clear up with an unfortunate misbelief that is circulating outside of Mexico: The Dia de Muertos is neither a crazy party at the cemetery, nor some sort of Mexican Halloween! If you’re one of those who associate this overly commercialized, horror orgy of our rampant fun society with the real Day of the Dead, you completely ignore its cultural and spiritual depth. The Dia de Muertos is rather an unique event, which is so important to the spiritual and cultural heritage of humanity, that it has been protected by Unesco for decades.
And, while north of the Rio Grande, not too many care about institutions like Unesco, traditional Mexican patriots still take the protection of their unique festivity very seriously. With pride and creative enthusiasm, they spend weeks preparing for the Day of the Dead, while trying to defy the tasteless flood of cheap orange Halloween pumpkin junk, which has streamed over their land every October for quite some time now.
With the Day of the Dead being a part of their primary education, Mexican children learn very early that death is just another part of life to which one should always pay respect but never fear, always mindful that death is not final because one returns to the circle of family once a year on the Dia de Muertos . This sums up pretty well the essence of the Day of the Dead and the difference from Halloween: the Dia de Muertos stands for the memory and the close family cohesion, even beyond death. There is no question that death will always mean mourning but beneath the grief and the sense of loss that evolve around the wonderful tradition of the Day of the Dead , there’s also a very beautiful point: knowing, that all loved ones live in our hearts and memories - just in another world.
Without a doubt, this Mexican way of mourning works all over this planet. Here at Superskull, it is our emotional drive and the main reason that we decided to take on this risky business project focusing on the Day of the Dead back in 2007, when we shipped our first products across the Atlantic. Witnessing a whole country turning into an orange and fragrant sea of flowers left us deeply impressed and electrified. But it was only a sheer coincidence that led us to the home altar in a Mexican living room, where we began to understand the big picture of the Day of the Dead which had us irrevocably falling for it.
The Day of the Dead Home Altar
Beneath the lovingly decorated grave itself, the so-called Ofrenda, the home altar for the Dia de Muertos in Mexico, marks the centerpiece of the family celebrations. First of all, the Ofrenda should definetly display a Photo of the deceased person.
Yellow and orange Cempasuchil flowers , also known as the sun of the underworld, lead the guests from the realm of the dead into our world. For this reason, marigolds are scattered everywhere - at the cemetery and even on the way from the grave site back home. At home, the flowers unfold their real magic on the Dia de Muertos Altar, displaying the altar gifts in a bright orange light, thus receiving warmly the souls of our dear departed.
Candlelight also provides warmth, but above all it represents light and hope. The candles are traditionally placed on all four corners of the altar, forming a solemn frame for the Ofrenda while helping the departed souls to find their bearings at the place of return. Copal , the Mexican incense, scares away the evil spirits and allows our beloved deceased to enter the house safely on the Dia de Muertos.
A glass of Water quenches the thirst after the long way from the afterlife – well placed and freshly filled every day on the home altar, it will strengthen the dead for their way back. Salt, provided in a small bowl, cleanses the body of the deceased soul and also prepares it for the upcoming year in the other world.
As soon as the basics are taken care of, the further physical well-being of our guests from the realm gains in importance: no Day of the dead altar is complete without the favorite festive Meal of the dead, always freshly prepared and made from the best ingredients. A bowl of fresh fruit serves as a vitamin snack. As in real life, drinks should not be forgotten, so think of placing soft drinks, beer and wine along with a shot glass of the favourite high-proof liquor. And if a cigar or cigarette after dinner was one of the habits during the deceased's lifetime, it must not be missing amongst the lovingly arranged altar gifts for the Dia de Muertos – because nothing is more idle than to question unhealthy choices at this point.
A special kind of Day of the dead altars are those dedicated to the souls of deceased children. These are already opened on the night of October 31st, because the little ones arrive at the crack of dawn on the 1st of November. In contrast to the yellow petals of the "dead flowers“ used at the devotional places of the grown-ups, the children's altars on the Dia de Muertos are exclusively decorated with innocent white flowers and candles. Instead of spicy food and other things that make us adults happy, the Day of the dead Children's Altar holds fruit and nutritious food in addition to a vast array of chocolates, sweets and toys.
In preparation of the Dia de los Muertos, Mexican bakeries bake huge amounts of Pan de Muerto. This "bread of the dead", made of yeast dough and decorated with skull and bones, is to be tasted by both the guests from the afterlife as well as the old and young who are living. On the Day of the dead altar, Pan de Muerto is an absolute must - it's really easy to bake and recipes can be found in great numbers on the internet.
Sugar Skulls and Papel Picado
Finally, we’re coming to the most prominent object of the Day of the Dead - the Sugar Skull. The colourfully decorated skulls made of sugar are often personalized with name tags and mark the highlight of each one of the lovingly decorated tombstones. On the Day of the Deadv Altar, the morbid pieces of baking art are an indispensable must, as they tell the deceased souls of the sweet life all the while sweetening the romantic Mexican idea of death to the living. Beneath all necessary ingredients you need to make your own sugar skulls, our Sugar Skull Category provides a ton of inspiration for decoration.
Decoration is also the keyword for another essential part of the Day of the Dead altar: Papel Picado belongs to the Dia de Muertos like avocado belongs to guacamole, as it represents the element wind, which reminds us with its delicate nature of the fragility of life. In our category Papel Picado Garlands , we offer a colorful selection of this handmade Mexican specialty, which adds a special touch to all sorts of partys, not only the Day of the dead.
Last but not least you can add personal items the spirit enjoyed in life like jewelry and other accessoires, grandmas lipstick, grandpas favorite tools or them old playing cards.