As Halloween rolls around and Americans are preoccupied with trick-or-treaters, a tradition that dates back thousands of years gets underway in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
It's called Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, and it has nothing to do with scary costumes.
Pre-Columbian cultures believed the souls of deceased family members returned on a specific day to the land of the living to spend time with their families.
The day, celebrated on November 2, consists of two aspects: families visiting cemeteries to remember the departed, and building altars beforehand in their homes in honor of those who have passed away.
Here are some tips to make a simple altar at home.
- Find a table or shelf, big or small, and cover it with a cloth.
- Place pictures of family members who have died, or anyone else you want to remember.
- Include items that belonged to that person or remind you of them.
- Add representations of fire (candles), wind (colorful perforated paper or papel picado), earth (flowers, fruits or vegetables), and water (glass of water)
- Place a bowl with salt to represent purification.
- Include a meal or favorite foods that were a favorite of the deceased family member.
- Adding marigold flowers create a scent that is said to attract the soul of your loved ones to the altar.
- Add sugar skulls or other calaveras, and bread of the dead. Both can be found at Latin American markets.
Watch the video in the player above to see what altars look like and how to put one together.