The Day of the Dead or Dia De Los Muertos, originally a Mexican festival, is celebrated throughout Mexico during the first two chilly days of November and is a declared public holiday in the country. Symbolizing love and respect for the ancestors, the values of family relationship and bond for the community, the festival is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. Apart from Mexico, it is also celebrated by the people of Mexican ancestry living elsewhere, especially the United States.
Dia De Los Muertos coincides with the Catholic holidays known as the All Souls' Day and the All Saints' Day. The indigenous people of Mexico have combined them together according to their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased friends and family members. They believe that at the stroke of midnight on the 31st day of October, the gates of heaven are opened for the departed souls and the spirits of all the deceased children come down to the earth on 1st November to be reunited with their families for the next twenty four hours. Similarly, on the next day, the All Souls' Day on the 2nd day of November, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are specially prepared for them. On that much awaited day the families visit the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves and tombs of their beloved relatives, and celebrate the day with the village band and remembrance about their loved ones, who left them forever.
During the celebration of the Day of the Dead, most of the families build special colourful altars, called 'Ofrenda', and decorate them with candles along with buckets of wild marigold flowers, locally known as 'Cempasuchil'. The decorations also include bright red cock's combs, mounds of fruit, peanuts, sugar skulls, stacks of tortillas, plates of turkey mole, and the compulsory big Day-of-the-Dead breads called 'Pan de muerto'. People believe that, thus they can make the spirits happy and the happy spirits of the ancestors will protect them from all the possible evils, bring good luck and bless them for the peace, happiness and prosperity.
The tradition of the Day of the Dead celebration dates back to 3,000 years, during the days of the Aztecs. The persistent tradition survived through the 16th century, when the Spanish arrived in central Mexico and thought the tradition to be blasphemous. However, instead of being abolished, the ancient celebration evolved gradually to incorporate even the elements of Christianity. Despite the popular use of the white faces and the skulls, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of life. It is not a time to mourn our loved ones, rather it is a time to remember and recall the lives they lead and the many things they enjoyed during that life.