9 Ways to Celebrate Day of the Dead
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Thousands of years ago, indigenous people in modern day Mexico celebrated the lives of their ancestors over two days of festivities now known as Día de los Muertos. The holiday takes place from the night of October 31 through November 2. While October 31 is Halloween, November 1 is intended to honor deceased children, and November 2 is for honoring deceased adults. The goal is to show love and respect to family members who have passed away.
Día de los Muertos isn’t meant to be a sad holiday—it’s a celebration of family and cultural identity. No matter your heritage, Day of the Dead is a perfect opportunity to pause and remember your loved ones who have passed on. That’s why this week on the StoryCombs blog, we’re sharing 9 ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos! We hope you enjoy the Coco gifs along the way, too.
1. Host a Gathering
Día de los Muertos is all about gathering to honor loved ones who have passed away, so getting together is a great way to celebrate the holiday. Invite your family over, or your framily (friends who are like family) to partake in the festivities with you.
2. Make Ofrendas
According to Mexican culture, for the two days of Día de los Muertos, the deceased are able to return to earth and visit the living. An ofrenda is an altar assembled at home to welcome the dead back and to refresh them after their long journey. Ofrendas typically include food, drink, candles, family photos, and other personal paraphernalia.
Think about who has passed in your family and craft your own ofrenda that would welcome them home. Include their favorite foods, beloved photos, and a candle.
3. Scatter Marigolds
Marigolds are the traditional flower of Day of the Dead. They’re intended to help spirits find their way home. Find some marigolds and scatter them in places meaningful to you and your deceased loved ones. You can start at their gravesite, in your home, or even in a park or other favorite place they loved during life.
4. Write a Poem
One popular component of Day of the Dead celebrations is the writing of calaveras literarias—short, funny poems that gently make fun of the living. They originally started as snarky tombstone epitaphs published in print newspapers, but have made their way into radio, TV, and other media. Try your hand at writing one! Find an example (in both Spanish and English) here.
5. Cook Up a Feast
Your loved ones’ favorite foods are often part of an ofrenda, but there are many other traditional eats that are enjoyed at Día de los Muertos celebrations. These can include pan de muerto (AKA bread of the dead), a sweet bread decorated with bones and skulls, sugar skulls, and beverages like hot chocolate.
If you’re not looking to try a new recipe, instead make an old family favorite. Spaghetti and meatballs? Sure! Kielbasa and cabbage? Yes! Whatever your cultural heritage is, find a way to honor it through food that’s meaningful to you and your loved ones.
6. Share Stories
Holidays are always a great time for sharing stories. Gather together and listen to the stories of your grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, or siblings. With the StoryCombs app, you can record a loved one narrating a story and upload a photograph to go with it!
If you live in different places, you can still share stories with StoryCombs! You can create a private group (called a Hive), and start sharing photos and video or audio on any piece of your family’s history.
7. Visit Graves
Rarely frequent the cemetery? Day of the Dead is a good opportunity to visit your deceased loved ones’ graves. This is a great place to bring those marigolds we mentioned, too. In Mexico, families often spend all night celebrating their loved ones in the graveyard, playing music, drinking, eating, and sharing stories. You can do the same, or simply leave flowers. Whatever feels right to you!
8. Enjoy Music
You don’t have to be a talented musician like Miguel from Coco to honor your deceased loved ones through music! Strum a tune if that’s your thing, but a well-curated Spotify playlist of your ancestors' favorite songs will do the job too.
9. Decorate Masks
Celebrating the holiday with children? Decorating masks is a fun way to encourage creativity while honoring ancestors. Skulls and flowers are traditional motifs for Day of the Dead masks.
Enjoy Día de los Muertos with your family and friends! If you need us, we’ll be perusing these gorgeous Day of the Dead photos from National Geographic. In the meantime, share your celebrations with us! We’d love to see them. Tag @storycombs and tell us how you celebrated on social or leave us a note in the comments below.