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How Day Of The Dead Celebrates Your Ancestors

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How Day Of The Dead Celebrates Your Ancestors

Deborah King Explains This Ancient Tradition From Mexico
Deborah  King
Deborah King More by this author
Oct 27, 2015 at 09:15 AM

As October passes and all ages in the U.S. are vying to see who can create the best Halloween costume, families in Mexico and other Latino cultures are preparing for a cultural holiday with a completely different spin on the world of “spirit.” While Halloween plays on the natural human tendency to fear the dead and the prospect of death, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of life and a tribute to all the family members who have gone before.

Instead of eerie cobwebs, spiders, bats, and skeletons meant to frighten, decorations for Day of the Dead include masses of bright yellow and orange flowers, plates of delicious food, colorful candy skulls, and playful skeletons finely dressed and ready to engage in all the activities living humans would enjoy.

In Mexico and other Latino cultures, Day of the Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos, is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, coinciding with the Catholic holidays, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Dia De los Muertos is a holiday which honors the dead by celebrating their lives and reflecting the happy times that families spent together. It encourages the belief that death is a natural part of the cycle of life, to be faced without fear. It also encourages the living to reinforce their connection to their ancestors, who have so much wisdom to offer. Families gather at the gravesites of loved ones with their gifts of food, drink, and flowers and spend the night in a candlelight vigil, celebrating those who have crossed over.

The traditional materials used for celebrating Day of the Dead are life-sustaining and life-enriching. Bowls of water and salt are placed on gravesites along with bunches of marigolds. A special sweet “bread of the dead” is baked in fanciful shapes and colorfully decorated. Sugar is molded in the shape of skulls and covered with bright frosting to make the traditional candy of the holiday. 

Unlike the spooky skeletons of Halloween, the hand-crafted skeleton figures made for  Day of the Dead are humorous and friendly, wearing colorful clothes, playing musical instruments, carrying plates of fruit and flowers, or even riding skeleton horses. In this sacred and happy celebration, the living and the dead share time together, and the barriers between them soften. In welcoming the souls of the dead, the living are comforted.

Another important aspect of the celebration is the altar, or ofrenda, that is created at home to honor a loved one who has recently passed. The ofrenda is decorated with their favorite things and made colorful and bright with flowers and candles, meant to invite the spirit of the departed loved one to visit the celebration and enjoy the company of family once again. The tradition is so appealing that the ofrenda has become a form of public art in many cities. Communities from New York to Los Angeles now hold Day of the Dead celebrations and provide space for people to design and build temporary tributes to the power of love that doesn’t end with death. 

Accepting the presence of death as a non-threatening reality affirms the spiritual belief that life is eternal. What a great affirmation of life to acknowledge that the spirits of the dead are present at the party to enjoy the devotion, the respect, and the love they are offered. Death is a part of every life. Day of the Dead eases the fear and the grief by wrapping the mystery in a comforting ritual that everyone can share. Day of the Dead gives you a day to reinforce your connection to your departed loved ones and all they have to offer.

As a spiritual teacher and energy healer, I often work with people who need help with connecting with the wisdom of their ancestors.  I see the power of Day of the Dead celebrations to enhance that connection. Here are some questions to think about: 

  • Do you have a favorite relative who has passed on who could be your trusted advisor?
  • Do you use sacred ritual and communal traditions to stay connected to your ancestors?
  • Do you regularly connect with Spirit and recognize the unity of all life?
  • Do you see death as a natural passage to the world of Spirit?

As we move further into Fall, remember, there is no reason to go life alone: take some time to reconnect with your favorite ancestors and take advantage of all they have to offer during this holiday season and beyond. 

Learn more about the healing work of Deborah King and how you can use these teachings to drastically improve the way you feel in your body, mind and spirit at

About Author
Deborah  King
New York Times best-selling author, health & wellness expert, and spiritual teacher Deborah King was a successful attorney in her twenties when she was diagnosed with cancer, which began a quest for healing that would radically change Continue reading