Dia de Los Muertos: Rituals and Traditions

By National Hispanic Cultural Center

Dia de Los Muertos: A Brief OverviewNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Synthesized between Mesoamerican beliefs and European influences Dia de los Muertos gives people the opportunity to remember loved ones with traditional offerings.

Child Decorating Sugar SkullNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Sugar skulls are a common gift for children and decoration for the Dia de los Muertos.

School Children With OfrendaNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Ofrendas are set up to remember and honor the memory of ancestors. Often ofrendas include Catholic religious symbols with Mesoamerican influences. Influences like the ritual of including a person’s tools alongside the body before cremation followed by 80 days of placing food and water at the family or temple altar. The Nahua people welcomed their deceased by shouting their names - leading them to elaborate offerings of food, water, tobacco, new clothes and tools. Those who do not build altars, do, for the most part, follow the Spanish/European customs of taking flowers and cleaning graves, like Memorial Day in the United States.

Mini Sugar Skull OfrendaNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Pop Up Ofrenda With Sugar SkullNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Día de los Muertos traditions carry a uniquely Mexican stamp, but in essence they are a fusion of pre-Columbian rituals and European beliefs brought by the Spanish to Mesoamerica. At the core Día de los Muertos traditions and rituals retain the primary mission of honoring, remembering and celebrating the life of all those who have come before us; as well as giving hope to our own inevitable mortality.

Community OfrendaNational Hispanic Cultural Center

This community ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos features David Bowie.

Ofrenda for Patrick Grange by Kenny Chavez and David SantiagoNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Patrick was a soccer player who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy and died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at 29. The ofrenda was created by artists Kenny Chavez and David Santiago for Dia de los Muertos.

Detail on Patrick Grange Ofrenda by Kenny Chavez and David SantiagoNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Patrick Grange Memorial Detail by Kenny ChavezNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Dia de los Muertos MakeupNational Hispanic Cultural Center

NHCC's award-winning float in the 2016 Dia de los Muertos y Marigold ParadeNational Hispanic Cultural Center

The National Hispanic Cultural Center's float for the Dia de los Muertos y Marigold Parade on Nov. 6, 2016, was created by a team of staff, volunteers and local artists who took the prize for best in show.

Children on StiltsNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Dia de los Muertos ParadeNational Hispanic Cultural Center

Cultures develop unique means of coming to terms with death. In Mexico, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations have developed to such an extent that they are widely considered an integral part of Mexican identity.

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