The Día de los Muertos is full of traditions. Since many believe that their deceased ancestors return to visit on this day, there are a lot of preparations made for this visit. Relatives will clean up the grave site of the deceased. At home, they will decorate with skeletons, papel picado (paper cutouts), and candles. The table altars that are erected in people's homes will often be adorned by a cross, a picture of Mary and various candles. The traditional decorations in the celebration of the Day of the Dead represent the blending of indigenous beliefs and the Roman Catholic faith that became prominent in Mexico.
Pan de muerto (bread of death) is a traditional food for this holiday. People may also have sugar skulls and other various treats and special foods. While the holiday is somewhat morbid, it is not a somber day. People remember the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased, and they will serve these foods--not only as an offering for those who have died, but also as special food for those doing the celebrations!
In different parts of Mexico, the Día de los Muertos is celebrated in many different ways. In some areas, people will spend the morning enjoying a meal at the grave of the deceased, which is decorated with marigolds and candles. In most places, there will be calaveras, satirical verses, written in memory of the dead. Catrinas, skeletons dressed in 19th century female garb, represent death--which any of us may meet anywhere and at any time.
In the cultural and religious systems of the various groups of people in Mexico, the Día de los Muertos is one of the most important and meaningful holidays of the year. In its many celebrations, festivities and traditions, it represents a profound mix of beliefs and elements of history that have been passed down through the centuries and continue to influence the present generation.