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Day of the Dead: more real than ghoul

Published November 1st, 2015

Not to be mistaken with Halloween, Dia de los Muertos 'Day of the Dead' is a celebration that honours the dead and has nothing to do with the trick-or-treating Northern European Halloween traditions.

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Celebrated every November 1 and 2, the festival concedes that the lost loved ones would be insulted by mourning and sadness, so instead the deceased are celebrated with food, drink and a fiesta! November 1 is Dia de los Inocentes, honouring children who have died. November 2 is Dia de los Muertos, honouring adults. White orchids are places on children’s graves, and bring orange marigolds on adults.

While celebrated throughout all of Latin America, the tradition is most recognised where it originated in Mexico. The customs of the festival stem from indigenous Aztec rituals and Catholicism, brought to Central and South America by the Spanish conquistadors.

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The most popular adornment for the day is the well-know calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) which are synonymous with the holiday, appearing in sweets, face-painting, masks and dolls.

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On Dia de los Muertos relatives visit the graves of the deceased, often cemeteries will have live Mariachi style bands play in them to ‘wake the dead’ from their slumber. Calaveras de azucar “sugar skull” candies are decorated and left for the dead at small altars. Candies are often eaten as a sweet treats to balance the bitterness of death.

Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.