Monday, November 1, 2010

A Colorful Celebration: Dia de los Muertos

dia de los muertos3

Today is the first of two days in which those who have passed are honored and remembered in Mexican culture. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is not a morbid or scary holiday like Halloween is meant to be. It is a time in which we remember our loved ones who have passed away and celebrate their lives. On November 1st, children who have passed away are honored and on November 2nd deceased adults are remembered. This celebration dates back for thousands of years in the indigenous cultures of Mexico and was later blended with Catholic traditions after the Spanish conquered Mexico.

Both sides of my family are Mexican of Spanish ancestry, but to be completely honest, we never celebrated the Day of the Dead in the way that I used to teach my students about. My family is from the city of Monterrey, the country’s industrial capital which is in northern Mexico. For my family, the Day of the Dead simply meant taking flowers to our relatives at the cemetery. However, this rich cultural tradition of celebrating the dead is more prevalent in central and southern Mexico where elaborate “ofrendas”, or offerings are set up with marigolds (the flowers of the dead), the deceased’s favorite food and drink, pictures of loved ones, favorite objects and so on, in order to make them feel welcome. This video gives a great, albeit brief explanation of Día de los Muertos:


get the look

dia de los muertos2

{Colorful Accessories from Cerulean and a little Oscar de la Renta}

fresh catrina

dia de los muertos

{Are you inspired to host a Día de los Muertos party next year? Keep these papel picado invitations from Etsy in mind. This recipe for the “Fresh Catrina” from Espolón Tequila would make a great signature cocktail!}

Fresh Catrina Cocktail

Muddle strawberry with black peppercorns. Rinse a cocktail glass with absinthe. Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker and fine strain into the rinsed cocktail glass.
Who better to create this Dia de los Muertos cocktail than the talented Waugh at New York’s famed Death & Company? The cocktail is named for Catrina, a skeletal figure who has become closely associated with Day of the Dead. In this recipe, the light and fruity taste of strawberry combined with the dark pop of anise and black pepper pays tribute to both the elegance of the Catrina and the darkness of death.


Día de los Muertos is a very rich tradition that I hope to experience in Mexico some day. However, given the current state of affairs there, I am making that statement with a heavy heart. I have not been to Mexico in five years and I can’t imagine going back in the foreseeable future. At least not until the drug cartels loosen their grip on the country. It is a terrible situation. One that worries me every day considering the fact that my entire extended family lives in Monterrey. 


melifaif said...

It is a very scary situation down there. I don't think many people understand how frightening it actually is!?! I will pray for your family...this is a gorgeous post!

Luciane at said...

Hola, Paloma!

This is simply fun! I love the colors you used and how you explain about "Dia dos los muertos". I am brazilian and we celebrate at the same day in Brazil (in Portuguese: "Dia dos Mortos). It's interesting, because I just started a blog and even thou I didn't mention about being "Dia dos mortos" today I also wanted to talk about my culture in a very fun and colorful way.
I live in Canada for more than 9 years now, my husband and 2 children are canadian, but I will always try to keep in my heart where I come from and the "tropical" way to live.
I hope that you have a minute or two to take a look at my blog.

Let me know what you think, ok?

Have a great week.

Luciane at

Rachael said...

Great post!!

Love those you Día de los Muertes inspired things. The cups are especially pretty!

Mica Perez Cataletto said...

Part of our family is from Monterrey, but part is from the Yucatan peninsula. We go to the Cemetary with tequila, music and bright flowers and have a party in honor of our relatives. It's actually a really good time. Thanks for recognizing this unique and wonderful holiday!

Averill said...

I too hate that Mexico is undergoing such turmoil -- it's always been a favorite destination of mine and there are so many wonderful places I would still like to visit.

Day of the Dead is a wonderful tradition, and I love the colorful art that accompanies it. I was totally thrilled when Mondo referenced it in his runway collection on Project Runway (and totally angry when he didn't win!).

Unknown said...

Great Post! I'm actually living in Mexico City and I'm completely fascinated with this ancient tradition. Looking forward to going to a cementery tonight to see how families take dishes, gifts and even mariachis to their beloved departed ones. Felíz día de Muertos!!! Xoxo

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

Goegous post and lovely background on this color-filled and soulful holiday. Truth be told, any occasion to pull the skeletons from the closet works for me ; )
That Frida book takes pride of place in my living room -- I adore the contrasting colors and her stunning expression.
Do stop by Nero, I've got my first wee giveaway going.
Cheers, Alcira

Carpe Diem said...

My family never celebrated the day of the dead... and unfortunately I only learned about this Mexican tradition as an undergrad at UCSB. More importantly, I truly love the art that has transpired from this lovely tradition, and I've incorporated (in a small degree) it on a wall dedicated to my family

Unknown said...

that cocktail looks yummy!

Adriana said...

Visiting Mexico during this time of year is something I would also love to do... hopefully in the near future. Love the post!!

Bri@Meyouandawiener said...

Most of my relatives live in Matamoros ironic the name, like you I stopped going to visit as well it's sad I wanted my great grandmother to meet my husband but I would never take my hubby across that border especially since he's white and well they assume anyone whose white has money and end up getting kidnapped. I remember when I was a little girl how much I loved going over there and now it's awful.