Traditional Mexican Foods for the Day of the Dead

If traditional Mexican foods for the Day of the Dead are at the heart of this yearly Mexican celebration, then its soul can be found in its ancient history. November 1st (for children) is called All Saints Day, and November 2nd (for adults) is called All Souls Day. Both holidays were combined into one Day of the Dead to honor the belief that deceased family members make spiritual visits to their living family on this day every year.

Altars are created with tables or boxes, and offerings may include photos, personal items and even favorite drinks of the deceased. Scattered candles are burned to light their way. Just as any traveler would enjoy bathing after a long journey, items for washing are included.

The primary symbol for this holiday is the skull or skeleton. But it becomes a joyful symbol representing the way dead spirits imitate and dance among the living. Parents will teach their children not to cry on the Day of the Dead because their tears will make the path too slippery for the spirits to travel.

Symbolic food is prepared and placed on the altar to nourish the spiritual travelers. Day of the Dead bread is sweet, contains anise seed, and is glazed with a citrus sugar blend and then dusted with colored sugars. Loaves are usually shaped like a skull or formed into a round loaf center with strips of dough rolled thin and attached like skeletal bones.

Because it is believed that the dead love sugar, special candies are popular for this celebration. Sugar skulls are made from a sugar paste pressed into molds and then decorated with icing or foil eyes. These candies can be found everywhere, even scattered among the graves in cemeteries, and they are considered gifts of love.

Other traditional foods include candied pumpkin that's been sliced fresh and cooked in a sweet glaze of unrefined sugar. Chocolate candies, in the shape of coffins and skulls, are a modern addition to this holiday. Chocolate also has symbolic links traced back to the Aztecs, who believed that the cocoa tree was the bridge between heaven and earth.

Day of the Dead food altars may vary in different regions, but most will also include traditional Mexican foods like mole, atole, (a hot, nourishing cornmeal and water drink), tortillas, tamales and fruits.

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Day of the Dead traditions are much more than a Mexican version of Halloween.

In Mexico, a way to honor dead relatives is through the preparing and eating of Day of the Dead food. The Day of the Dead is an event in which families celebrate the return of the spirits of deceased ancestors. To create an atmosphere that any wandering spirit would love to visit, families often prepare dishes enjoyed by their loved ones.

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Day of the Dead altars are set up by families in Mexico to honor family members who have died. These altars are typically bright and colorful and are not designed out of sadness or mourning, but out of joy.

Dia de los Muertos' history reflects early Catholic practices, but the holiday, also known as the "Day of the Dead," has emerged as an Aztec-influenced Mexican celebration with a distinct set of unique traditions. Born and based in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is also celebrated by those of Mexican descent throughout the world.

Her face is one you'd never forget, and she goes by many names like La Catrina, la Flaca, la Huesuda, la Pelona (Fancy, Skinny, Bony, Baldy). No, she's not a model! In Mexico, she's known as La Muerte, Death.

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