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Day of the Dead

How do Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead?

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October 07, 2009 3:42PM

Most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include yellow or orange marigold flowers thought to attract souls of the dead.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets and the deceased's favorite candies (dulces) on the grave. Ofrendas (offerings) are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") or sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are provided in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrenda food. Additionally, pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico, such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives.

Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes. These altars usually have the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, and scores of candles. Traditionally, families spend time around the altar praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. In some locations, celebrants wear shells on their clothing so when they dance the dead will wake up because of the noise. Some will dress up as the deceased.