El día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico and elsewhere associated to the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day (1 November) and All Souls’ Day (2 November). It is both a remembrance and celebration for the dearly departed.
The day involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died and is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building home altars (ofrendas), honouring the deceased using representations of a human skull (calaveras), Aztec marigolds (tagetes erecta) and the favourite foods and drinks of the departed, and visiting graves with these gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graveside. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and comments of the living directed to them.
In modern Mexico the marigold is sometimes called Flor de Muerto (‘Flower of Dead’). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. It is also believed the bright petals with a strong scent can guide the souls from cemeteries to their family homes.
Some of the home altars might have pan de muerto (bread of the dead), calaveras (sugar skulls), atole (a corn- and masa-based beverage). Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey.