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How to Celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico

The Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration in Mexican culture that honors the lives of the deceased and welcomes their souls back the night of November 1. In Mexico, the celebration centers around an altar in the loved one's honor, often at their grave site.


  • Step 1: Buy orange marigolds Buy orange marigolds for the ofrenda, or altar. These will be sold in abundance close to the holiday at any Mexican market you visit. Other flowers can be used, but marigolds are the traditional flower of the holiday.
  • Step 2: Find Pan de Muerto Find pan de muerto, or Day of the Dead bread, at any Mexican bakery. This bread is sweet and made with orange peel and anise. Small strips of dough are baked to the top to simulate bones. Other food can also be placed on the altar.
  • TIP: Bring extra food and drink for the living family members who will be in attendance.
  • Step 3: Get sugar skulls Get sugar skulls, a traditional candy, to lay on the altar. They are what they sound like -- candies in the shape of skulls. Sugar skulls are typically used for the altars of children, but can be used on any altar.
  • Step 4: Bring washing supplies Bring a bowl with some water, soap, and a towel to place on the altar. It is believed that the souls of the dead will want to wash up before they come back to the realm of the living.
  • TIP: Think of the things your deceased friend or relative enjoyed in life. Those things can also be added to the altar. Candles, photos, religious artifacts, and toys can all be used.
  • Step 5: Go to the cemetery Go to the cemetery with everything you have gathered to build the altar. You should go late in the night, around midnight, and plan to stay.
  • Step 6: Remember your loved one Remember your loved one with family and friends. This can mean anything from sitting silently to dancing and singing. Each family is different and celebrates differently, but Dia de los Muertos is not a holiday of mourning -- it is a day to celebrate the life of someone you loved.
  • FACT: Mexico's Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

You Will Need

  • Orange marigolds
  • Day of the Dead bread
  • Sugar skulls
  • Bowl of water
  • Towel
  • Soap
  • Fond memories
  • Extra food and drink (optional)
  • Candles (optional)
  • Photos of the deceased (optional)
  • Other items that represent the deceased (optional)

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