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El Dia de Los Muertos, is an annual Mexican celebration held in honor of loved ones who have been dead for more than 40 days.
A solemn but joyful celebration, El Dia de Los Muertos traces back to the Aztec ceremony known as Quecholly, where dead warriors were remembered during the annual corn harvest. That tradition, combined with the Catholic Church's celebration of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul's Day (Nov. 2) developed into a unique Mexican holiday that is part family reunion, part fall feast.
An important part of the celebration is an ofrenda, or altar, that is decorated with many items including the marigold flower, candles to attract the dead, and family pictures, clothing or belongings.
Food is an integral part of El Dia de Los Muertos. Popular dishes favored by loved ones such as mole, tamales, churros and fresh fruit are set out in hopes that the departed will share in the feast. In Veracruz, the best ears of corn from the harvest are placed on the altar; candy and sweets are set out for children who have passed on.
Other popular foods include chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and white chocolate skeletons, which are made as a way of laughing at death. A special bread, called pan de muertos is baked and decorated with fake bones. When making the bread, a little dough is used to decorate the top of each loaf with bones, crosses and tears. These shapes rise with the loaf and are attached just before baking. It is wonderful served with guava jelly and burnt orange marmalade.
After November 2, when the family believes the spirit has consumed its share of the meal, the food and drink is split with friends and relatives.