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Hispanic Heritage Month: The Day of the Dead

Hispanic Heritage Month: The Day of the Dead

My Mexican heritage is especially significant to me so I can teach my children and grandchildren about our heritage and hope they will pass on the stories and traditions that go along with it, too. The people of Mexico celebrate holidays with many traditions. Two of my favorite holidays are “the Day of the Dead” and “Charisma’s festivities.”

The Day of the Dead celebration combines the European Catholic traditions of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day with the Aztec rituals of honoring the deceased. This tradition originated in southern Mexico more than three thousand years ago with the first celebrations of deceased souls. When the Spanish arrived many years later, they tried to stop the celebration as the celebration did not align with their own religious beliefs. But nothing the Spanish tried stopped the love and enthusiasm the natives had for this day, and over time, the celebration has prospered and evolved.  

My parents don’t celebrate like other Hispanic families traditionally do, but my grandma did. We would start the day before the Day of the Dead preparing the altar or the grave site with flowers, pictures, candles, tequila – or any alcohol if “the person dead use to like to drink,” as she’d say – and plenty of food, all of this with colorful decorations. Grandma used to say that the food and drinks we put out are their favorites for the dead to enjoy throughout the year. I’ve known some people who would bring mariachis or bands to the side of their loved one’s grave. My favorite part is always getting a sugar skull with my name on it! To this day, I proudly celebrate my Mexican traditions and culture.

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