Make some Pan de Muertos or a Sugar Skull Pizza and learn a little more about the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos.
Just as many in the U.S. are finishing up celebrating Halloween, people from Mexico are beginning to celebrate Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Día de Muertos is a Mexican holiday that falls on November 1 and 2, where friends and family remember and pray for their loved ones who have died. While it's a national holiday in Mexico, celebrations take place all around the world, and have become increasingly common in parts of the U.S. with large Hispanic populations.
Día de Muertos originated 3,000 years ago with the Aztecs, who had annual ceremonies, not to mourn, but to honor the deceased and to welcome the temporary return of their spirits. When the Spanish conquistadors conquered the Aztec Empire in the early 1500's, they brought with them Catholicism, hence All Souls and All Saints Day, which were their own answers to honoring the dead. The result, the Día de Muertos we know today.
One of the things family and friends do on this holiday is build altars (altares de muertos) to welcome the spirits of the deceased. Laid out on top of the altars are offerings (ofrendas) for the dead, such as candles, incense, marigolds, fresh fruits, photos of the departed, and things they enjoyed while they were alive.
No Día de Muertos celebration is complete without bread of the dead (pan de muerto). It's a sweet, egg-based bread usually containing the herb anise or cinnamon , and made during the weeks leading up to the holiday. The Bread of the Dead is symbolic. It is typically round with bones placed in a circle to symbolize the circle of life. It is often eaten at the altar. Our Latina blogger Mely made a simplified version using Rhodes dough. The complete post can be found here.
If you've seen the animated movie "The Book of Life" then you witnessed a lot of the Dia de Muertos symbolism, such as the character Catrina:
Sugar skulls (calaveras de azúcar) are kind of like the mascot of Día de Muertos. They are a symbol of death and afterlife, and are often used to decorate altars. They are also given as gifts on this holiday, especially to kids. Here's a fun idea for a Sugar Skull Pizza from GrowingUpBilingual.com. P.S. Rhodes dough makes great pizza dough!
So make some Pan de Muertos or a Sugar Skull Pizza and share these traditions with your family on November 2nd so you can enjoy a little about the Mexican culture. A trip to the local cemetery may be in order too. :)