Mexico is always on my mind this time of year as Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos takes place in early November. It is a mixture of pre-Hispanic and Catholic traditions. The belief is that the spirits of the deceased return for one night to be reunited with loved ones.
Day of the Dead is not a time to mourn. Instead it celebrates and honors the dead. It is filled with humor and artistry unique to Mexico.
Families set up altars dedicated to the deceased and decorate their graves. The elaborately decorated altars, which typically include a photo of the deceased, marigolds, candles, sugar candy skulls and paper cut outs resembling lace, are completed with offerings. The offerings are meant to welcome the spirits and include items such as food and drinks they liked. Graves are decorated in a similar manner.
Day of the Dead culminates with all night graveyard vigils. From evening until dawn families sit around graves meticulously cleaned and decorated. The atmosphere in the graveyards is spiritual and celebratory and visitors are welcomed with smiles.
I’ve had the good fortune to witness and photograph these traditions in the beautiful colonial cities of Oaxaca and Patzcuaro, which are the epicenters of Day of the Dead festivities, as well as Mexico City on several occasions and will most definitely return one day. You can see a full gallery of images here.