Mexico welcomes departed souls that come back to earth, at Day of the Dead celebrations. This occurs every year on November 1 and 2nd. Families gather at their homes and cemeteries to remember their relatives. Many Americans have seen Skeletons when reading about the celebration, and automatically think it is Mexico's version of Halloween, but it is not meant to be scary, it is a time to reflect and honor the deceased. Many Americans have no idea of how much effort is put into this holiday. Women spend hours organizing flowers for gravesites. Music can be often heard, because families play the deceased favorite songs. Food is a very important part of honoring them.
In homes, families make alters and cover them with flowers and burn incense for the spirits to enjoy. Usually there are photos of the deceased and statues of saints. Also on the table are fruits and vegetables along with other foods that are later given away and eaten. The food is made to please the spirits, so naturally the best foods to make are the ones that the deceased enjoyed the most on earth. Families make the deceased favorite dishes. It is popular to see Moles and Tamales made for the Day of the Dead celebration because they are hard to make dishes and are usually for special occasions.
Breads are common in Day of the Dead celebrations. The breads are sweet and rich with eggs, but they vary in different regions of the country. Bakeries hire extra workers to make more bread during this time. The breads are made into different shapes. Bread that is round shape is the most common, but they can also be shaped as people and animals to represent the deceased.
Sugar Candy skulls are popular amongst children. It is a big treat for them similar to Christmas and Easter candies. Sugar skulls are traditional folk art that is from central and southern Mexico which is used every year to celebrate Day of the Dead. Vendors sell many colorful sugar skulls the week before the celebration. The skulls are made by the sugar being pressed into molds and then dried. Once the skulls are dried, they are decorated with colorful icing and even sometimes with non-edible items such as colorful feathers and sequins. Although the skulls are popular, traditional Halloween candy is now competing with the sugar skulls making the skulls hard to find in the South of Mexico.
Besides the sugar skulls, chocolate is another common favorite. Pumpkin candies can also be found where there are children celebrating the day. It consists of big green Mexican pumpkins that are grown for specifically making the candy.
It takes much planning and hard work to take part in this event. It makes the families proud to remember and honor their family members. If ever in Mexico, try to visit during this time of year. It is beautiful to see how much love and respect people have for their loved ones that have passed away.