So, Halloween is now officially over for another year. But don’t pack up your decorations just yet.
Today is Día de Los Muertos — the Day of the Dead.
With its roots in Mexico, Día de Los Muertos celebrates the memories of those we’ve loved and lost. All over Mexico, families and friends get together to pray for the souls of their loved ones and to reminisce about their lives. Outside of Mexico, the holiday is most prominent in areas with large Hispanic populations. No surprise, then, that some of the biggest festivals in the U.S. take place here in Texas.
For those not familiar with the customs, it may seem Día de Los Muertos is very similar to Halloween. While it’s true that some of the common icons (skeletons, for example) are shared by both holidays, Halloween focuses more on fear, evil and the “dark side” of death. On the contrary, Day of the Dead is a happy celebration: on November 1st and 2nd (“All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” in the Catholic religion) it is believed that the dead return to the living so friends and family can make contact with their spirit and let them know they are still remembered and loved. It’s a day of joy and happiness as people are rejoined in life with those loved ones who have passed on.
One of the most common tributes are the “altares” (altars) that are created and decorated to honor the soul of a friend or family member. People lay gifts on the altar called “ofrendas” (offerings) which may include candles, incense, photos, flowers (marigolds are considered symbols of the dead and are very common on the altars), skeletons and sugar skulls. Food and beverages that the person enjoyed in life are often included as ofrendas too. Gravesites are also visited and decorated while stories and memories of the dead are shared.
Many people who have not grown up within this culture are intrigued by Día de Los Muertos, but don’t exactly know how to celebrate. But the best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the celebration and just soak it in — all are welcome! There are many Día de Los Muertos celebrations across Texas; however, they often coincide with Halloween parties. Still, it’s not too late: here are a few that are occuring today and tomorrow (Nov. 1st and 2nd) and even beyond. If you’ve never been to a Day of the Dead festival before, why not join the celebration!
Austin Days of the Dead – began Oct. 19 and continues through Nov. 2nd.
Fort Worth Día de los Muertos – November 2; drum and puppet procession from Marine Park to the Rose Marine Theater Plaza. Complete with music, dancing, face painting and pan de muerto.
Houston’s Día De Los Muertos Festival – Nov. 1-3; includes altar exhibits, traditional arts and crafts sale, themed performances, foods from Latin American countries, live music and more.
San Antonio Muertos Fest– Nov. 1 and 2; live music, art “living altar” display contest
El Paso Día de Los Muertos – Nov. 2; held in Concordia Cemetery, featuring face painters, live music, ghost tours and story telling surround the cemetery with marigolds in the style of this Latin holiday.
Corpus Christi Día de Los Muertos Street Festival – Nov. 2; features live entertainment, art vendors, altar exhibits.