First of all, you should know, this is not a Mexican version of Halloween!
The Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos, as it is called in Spanish, is a Mexican tradition which has its origins in the pre-hispanic times. According to historians, the Mexica Community (an indigenous ancient community) had various periods throughout the year to celebrate their dead, the most important took place at the end of their harvest, between the months of September and November.
The Aztec Community (also and indigenous community) believed that life continued even in the afterlife, that is why it considered the existence of four destinations for people, according to the way they died.
The archaeologist Eduardo López Moctezuma details them as:
The Tonatiuhichan was the place where warriors killed in battle, those captured for sacrifice, and pregnant women went.
The Tlalocan, a type of paradise to which all those who died by water arrived.
El Chichihualcuauhco, a space destined for dead babies, where they were breast-feeded by a huge nurse tree until they reborn.
El Mictlán, the kingdom of the dead and the destiny of people who died from causes not related to water, war or childbirth.
Lets talk about the centerpiece of the celebration: The Altar. Built in private homes and cemeteries meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living; they’re loaded with offerings—water to quench thirst after the journey, food, family photos, and a candles. Marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the altar (it also symbolizes the whole celebration). Scattered from altar to gravesite, marigold petals are used to guide the wandering souls back to the land of the living.
And lets not forget the delicious part of the tradition: PAN DE MUERTO (bread of the dead, sounds weird right?) is a typical sweet bread, often featuring anise seeds and lots of sugar, decorated with skulls and bones made from dough; there're also sugar skulls!
Today, thanks to recognition by UNESCO (and maybe to Pixar's Movie Coco), Día de los Muertos is more popular than ever—in Mexico and increasingly abroad. There might be a lot of cities and countries that celebrate this date but the most authentic celebrations take place in Mexico. If you find yourself in Mexico City the weekend before Day of the Dead this year, make sure to stop by Pátzcuaro, Mixquic, Aguascalientes, or wherever you are, - We're sure you'll find the city decorated from top to bottom with the marigold flower!