Levine Museum of the New South Dia de los muertos

What exactly is Día de Los Muertos? (Hint: it’s not Halloween)

Día de Los Muertos, which translates to Day of the Dead in English, is a culturally rich Mexican holiday that has slowly been integrated into American culture. You may have seen Día de Los Muertos decorations while you were out shopping for Halloween costumes.

But do you know what the holiday really means?

It is not a Mexican Halloween
Día de Los Muertos is nothing like Halloween. Its origin can be traced back to the Aztecs in Mexico who would celebrate the lives of their deceased family members throughout a specific month. Once the Spanish colonized Mexico, they combined the pagan celebration with the Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day and condensed the celebration.

Image Courtesy of Levine Museum of the New South

It’s a celebration of life
Día de Los Muertos celebrates the lives of those family members who have passed away and is done so over two separate days. November 1 is reserved to celebrate the lives of children, while November 2 is set aside for the lives of deceased adults. As part of this celebration, family members cook the favorite meals of that deceased family member and leave them at their graves. The graves are also cleaned and colorfully decorated with flowers and sugar skulls.

How You Can Celebrate Día de Los Muertos in the Queen City

You don’t have to travel to Mexico to celebrate the holiday. I’m on the Board of the Levine Museum of the New South and we host an annual festival to celebrate the holiday in partnership with the Latin American Coalition. Throughout the festival, you can expect a full immersion of the holiday featuring a competition of altar decorations, music, dance performances, traditional foods, sugar skull workshops, arts and crafts — the best part is it’s free. The festival will take place at the museum on Sunday, October 29 from noon until 4 pm and will be a great outing and cultural experience for the whole family.

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Pacino Mancillas