Over the three days that encompass this festival of the dead, all kinds of celebrations, from parties with music and dancing to introspective family gatherings are organized. The festivities are most colorful in the southern regions of Mexico. Cities are littered with skeleton statues. People dressed as skeletons, attach shells to their clothing to make a noise like rattling bones while they dance. The noise is meant to attract the spirits of the dead to join them in the festivities.
Another recent trend is the amount of people who frequent tattoo parlors, getting tattoos to commemorate those the parlor's clients have lost.
Outside of the dancing and parades, there are those who celebrate the loss of their loved ones in a more private way. Some bring altars to the cemetery and spent time praying at the grave. Others build small shrines in their homes. These shrines typically include a Christian cross, a photo of the Virgin Mary and of the deceased along with candles. Prayers are made around the shrine along with the telling of stories and anecdotes involving the person whom the shrine was built for. The parties and festivals may be the most memorable part of the Day of the Dead for tourists but it is really about love, faith, loss and the memory of loved ones.
Mexicans cook traditional foods to enjoy it with friends and family. Gingerbread skeletons, pan de muerto, Mexican hot chocolate, and champurrados are some of the most popular Mexican dishes that are prepared and eaten during the festival days.
Another unusual fact is that the observance is celebrated in different styles in different cities of the country. For some reason, it is believed, the celebrations change after every few miles.
Today, Latin Americans, especially Mexicans, have settled down in the US in great numbers. The festival has become Americanized to some extent. People celebrate Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead simultaneously, making the it the perfect example of two cultures meeting with open minds.