The sugar skulls, freshly baked sweetened bread and altars adorned with photos of passed loved ones are all part of a tradition that’s over 3,000 years old. The Day of the Dead (November 1-2), which first began in Mexico, honors the departed souls returning to earth. Today, the holiday is celebrated throughout the country and highlight the following traditional offerings:
Ofrendas: A huge part of the festivities feature decorated altars found in homes and cemeteries paying tribute to departed loved ones. These include photos and other offerings, such as favorite dishes, flowers, toys, candles, drinks, statues of patron saints and other gifts.
Candles: Votive candles are lit to guide the dead and are usually adorned in a specific color. White represents hope, purple for pain and pink for celebration. Candles may also feature a photo of the beloved’s patron saint. The candles are usually lit to burn during the night.
Food: Traditional foods placed on altars include fresh fruits, tamales, mole, sugar skulls or cookies, as well as traditional bread known as “pan de muertos.” Special dishes the person enjoyed during his or her lifetime are also featured.
Sangrita: This traditional holiday drink, made with lime and pomegranate juices, is also placed on an altar. Some families add oranges, chile powder and hot sauce for an extra zest. Alternatively, some opt for tequila.
Flowers: Marigolds, also known as “cempasuchit,” are hailed in Mexico as the “flower of the dead” and are often used during the holiday.
Incense: Burning incense is used to remove any negative energy or bad spirits from a space, allowing the deceased to find their way to the altar.
As you pay tribute to your relatives, choose to unite the family and prepare some alternative, healthy dishes everyone can participate in making together. Whether you’re seeking to serve a hearty soup or looking to savor a dessert rich in fruits and not sugar, check out our picks above for tasty Día De Los Muertos recipes.
You can reach Stephanie Nolasco via Twitter: @SNolasco