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The Day of the Dead

Updated on November 2, 2014

Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico on November 1 (All Saints Day) and the 2nd (All Souls Day) in conjunction with the Catholic holidays. The essence of the holiday is to honor those that have gone before us when the veil between the Worlds is temporarily lifted (similar to the Wiccan holiday of Samhain celebrated on October 31st).

Private altars are prepared for deceased family member and/or friends. All the things they loved in life are incorporated into these altars; food, drink, flowers (usually marigolds) and spirits (plenty of spirits of all kinds). Candles luminate the altars, and photos of the person being honored are displayed.


The most famous artist associated with this genre was José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) whose satirical broadsheets took their name from the word for skeleton or skull, Calavera. They were greatly admired as a form of folk art by many left-wing artists in particular, including the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein, who was working in Mexico in 1931-32.

Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York - Celebrate Today till 4PM (located at 1 Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan)

(212) 514-3700

Saturday October 27th 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Bread of the Dead ~ Grateful Bread - Pan de Muerto

  This bread goes way back to the times of human sacrifices when the Mayans used to offer the beating heart to the gods to go in a pot with Amaranto, an Andean cereal rich in nutrients. The Spaniards horrified by this tradition created a heart made of wheat and sugar, which was painted with red simulating the blood. Others believe the bread tradition came from the foods the dead were buried with, which was a common practice in Mesoamerica.

Bread of the Dead

1 package granulated yeast

4 1/2 cups flour

6 eggs

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

200 grams butter

1/4 cup orange blossom water

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Icing and sprinkles

Preparation

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Mix in 1/2 cup flour. Leave mixture in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Sift together salt, sugar, cinnamon and flour.

Add the remaining ingredients, but only half the butter.

Add the yeast dough and mix until it forms thick dough but not hard.

Tip: Make sure dough doesn't stick to the table before placing it in a large greased bowl. Cover it.

Let dough rise until it doubles in size. Pound it again, and add the rest of the butter.

Divide the dough into three equal parts. Use two for the loaves and one to decorate the loaves.

Let loaves double in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned.

Sprinkle with sugar while warm.

After the loaves have cooled, decorate with icing and other pastry confections to create skulls, bones or names of the deceased.

Day of the Dead bread is one important tradition that joins our families in love and appreciation for the ones gone. I love making or simply buying a Day of the Dead bread to share with our family, children learn our Hispanic culture by practicing our traditions.

Ingredients

  • 1 package granulated yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 200 grams butter
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Icing and sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Mix in 1/2 cup flour. Leave mixture in a warm place until it doubles in size.
  2. Sift together salt, sugar, cinnamon and flour.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, but only half the butter.
  4. Add the yeast dough and mix until it forms thick dough but not hard.
  5. Tip: Make sure dough doesn't stick to the table before placing it in a large greased bowl. Cover it.
  6. Let dough rise until it doubles in size. Pound it again, and add the rest of the butter.
  7. Divide the dough into three equal parts. Use two for the loaves and one to decorate the loaves.
  8. Let loaves double in size.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. Sprinkle with sugar while warm.
  11. After the loaves have cooled, decorate with icing and other pastry confections to create skulls, bones or names of the deceased.
  12. Day of the Dead bread is one important tradition that joins our families in love and appreciation for the ones gone. I love making or simply buying a Day of the Dead bread to share with our family, children learn our Hispanic culture by practicing our traditions.
Cast your vote for Bread of the Dead Printable Recipe

Sugar Skulls - Sugar Skull & Icing Recipes

Sugar Skulls
Sugar Skulls

If you click the photo above it will take you to a really cool site where they give detailed instructions on how to make sugar skulls, you can also go to Martha Stewart's site and do a Sugar Skulls "Search" on her site. I bought a few Sugar Skull Molds from the site the photo / link takes you too (it is also included in my link list).

Meringue Powder Brand

Do not use meringue powder from hobby shops or cake supply shops as it's usually diluted and cut way too much for use with heavy granulated sugar. It's ok for icing, just it will not hold together sugar skulls! We get calls daily from teachers & folks who's sugar skulls are "sandy" and not sticking together and have a big mess on their hands and don't have enough time to get new meringue powder and redo the project. Start right from the beginning! The only reliable meringue powder is the one we sell or that of Sur La Table gourmet kitchen shop/ catalog Sur La Table Meringue Powder .

Sugar Skull Recipe

Mix together well in large bowl:

1 teaspoon Meringue Powder for every cup of granulated sugar used.

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients well.

Step 2: Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 teaspoon water per cup of sugar used.

Variation: Colored Skulls

Most people prefer white skulls the first time they make them, but if you'd like colored sugar skulls, add paste food coloring TO THE WATER. For a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4 cup meringue powder and 10 teaspoons of water. Yield 5 large skulls or 20 medium skulls or 100 mini skulls or any combination.

For a 10 pound bag of sugar, use 1/2 cup meringue powder and 7 Tablespoons water. Yield 10 large skulls or 40 medium skulls or 200 mini skulls or any combination.

Meringue Powder is a MUST and cannot be omitted. It is difficult to find, but may be ordered in 4 oz, 8 oz or 1 pound packages on our sugar skull molds and supplies page. Meringue powder is what makes the sugar and the icing hard. Its main ingredient is powdered dry egg whites & starch, but it also includes vegetable gum, cream of tarter, calcium lactate, malic acid & sodium aluminum sulfate. It's totally edible.

Powdered sugar for Royal Icing

1 pound box = 3 1/2 cups

2 pound bag = 7 cups (do not sift Powdered Sugar)

Measurement: 3 teaspoons make a Tablespoon: 4 Tablespoons make 1/4 cup. But on this website, 7 Tablespoons (21 teaspoons) of Meringue Powder = 1/2 cup! (Please don't email me on this!) Sugar Skull making is not an exact science... we like easy measurements! Especially when measuring with kids.

Día de los Muertos on eBay - The Day of the Dead on eBay

I just love this holiday on so many levels. Now there's a Category on eBay dedicated to Day of the Dead too. How cool is that?

Ofrenda

During the three-day period, families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (offerings), which often include orange mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchitl (originally named cempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty flowers"). In modern Mexico, this name is sometimes replaced with the term Flor de Muerto ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. The photo is from a ofrenda in a private home in LA.

Death The Trip of a Lifetime by Charles Kuralt - Dia de los Muertos

High Tech Funeral Options in Osaka, Japan. This was the guy who did the documentary Charles Kuralt, he was the first CBS News Sunday Morning anchor most widely known for his long career with CBS, first for his "On the Road" segments on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Death The Trip of a Lifetime

At Any Given Time Death Is About A 1/2 A Foot Away

It's a shame this Charles Kuralt documentary hasn't been broadcasted again or made available on DVD; it was one of my staples I'd roll out to view on VHS (talk about dead). If you ever get a chance to see it, they have a wonderful segment on The Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico as celebrated in cemeteries by the natives. He goes to a village off the beaten path to observe how the holiday is celebrated in a non-commercial, dignified way; away from tourists who have invaded the privacy of many trying to commune with their relatives who have passed on.

Huge Day of the Dead Display - © Colin Young-Wolff 2012

photo by © Colin Young-Wolff 2012

I always loved this celebration of those that have gone before us; I always set an empty place at the table as a symbolic gesture as well as an alter. If a family member or friend has passed within the year, they're made the guest of honor; and I am sure to include a food, drink and/or flower they enjoyed in life.

Do you celebrate The Day of the Dead? - If so, what do you do?

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    • MissRubyStars profile image

      MissRubyStars 4 years ago

      We don't usually celebrate, but I think it's time we started!

    • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 4 years ago

      I love learning about The Day Of The Dead. Awesome lens! Thank you for all the great info.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @Jerzimom: Thank you for stopping by and blessing.

    • Jerzimom profile image

      Cheryl Fay Mikesell 4 years ago from Ladysmith, WI

      I love the Bread of the Dead recipe! Pretty cool! Blessed!

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @GregoryMoore: My pleasure, thanks for the visit ;-)

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Very informative. I had always seen day of the dead parades in movies and heard of it elsewhere, but never really knew what it was all about. Thanks

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @Dusty2 LM: Have a Fantastic New Year and Squidoo Year; Good Health / Fortune, Joy and Peace to you and your family. Ha ha too funny "Frozen Dead Guy Day". Gosh I'd love to live in Colorado, you folks are awesome; must be nice to live in a state that doesn't waste tax payers $$$ prosecuting people for smoking herb (it pisses me of to see how much money NYC wastes on going after something people are going to do regardless of what the law says).

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      Hi Dedicated! I should have added this link instead because the link I added in my post was linked from this website: http://www.bestofbouldercolorado.com/frozen-dead-g... Boulder is just down the road from Nederland where some of those Winter Sports take place in my lens. Again, Thank You! HNY 2013!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      I don't celebrate The Day of the Dead but found this lens to be really interesting. Instead, The Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD) is usually celebrated here from Friday through Sunday on the first full weekend of March since his frozen body was brought to the US in 1989. The 12th Annual Event for 2013 is being held March 8th-10th, 2013 in Nederland. If you would like to check out FDG Days here is the link: frozendeadguydays.org, I hope you don't mind me adding this info here but thought you might be interested in checking this celebration out and some of the Events they hold during the celebration. The story behind the FDG Days is really interesting too. It even has its own page on Wikipedia. Anyway, I want to Thank You for stopping by my Winter Sports in Colorado lens and giving it a "thumbs up". I really appreciate it. HNY 2013!

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

      Love the idea of this type of remeberance. Food, drink, sharing memories.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 4 years ago

      I don't really celebrate it but I have seen fantastic altars dedicated to famous people like the one the out up for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. Also there is an area in Mexico City called Mixquic, every single house has an altar and from the outside they make a trail with petals from a traditional flower called cempazuchitl and lined up with candles for the spirits to follow. It looks impressive and spooky.

    • profile image

      marsha32 4 years ago

      I'm not Catholic, but we have All Saint's Day at church.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't, but how interesting. I'm not sure I'd want deceased relatives coming by.

    • Jenn Alex Brockma profile image

      Jenn Alex Brockma 4 years ago

      I love day of the dead stuff! The skulls are beautiful and the artwork is very cool. I first got interested after the Mexican Moon album from Concrete Blonde.

      I learned a few things here, so thanks!

    • Sara Dowling profile image

      Sara Dowling 4 years ago

      cool lens

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 4 years ago

      We don't celebrate the Day of the Dead in my country, but I knew about it, even before I read your great lens. Thanks!

    • patriciabruce1 profile image

      patriciabruce1 4 years ago

      Awesome lens!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I never heard of The Day of the Dead, but I really enjoyed your lens.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @DeborahDian: Cool!!!

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      At the multi-cultural high school where I work, the art department has a Day of the Dead unit during which all of the students get to make masks and do other art projects. I love seeing what they come up with.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We do not celebrate The day of the Dead. We just go to light candles on the graves. It is interesting that The day of the Dead is always rainy and foggy.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      Well, this was sure a feast for the eyes!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I don't celebrate the Day of the Dead any more than any other day, but then I do celebrate every day.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @Heather426: I hear ya, everyday your above ground and can wipe your own bottom is a good day to celebrate for me. Lol

    • profile image

      laurajax 4 years ago

      AWESOME LENS!!!!!

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      Only if it involves the band.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @Nightcat: Awesome! Me too, I've been getting into it more and more as the years go by, it's a great extension of Sowan. Glad to hear all is well and you had a Happy Holiday; I did as well )O(

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      Yes, I love the days of the dead. I even painted my own skulls and include them for Halloween. I have the altars, flowers, offerings, it brings great comfort to me.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @BuckHawkcenter: Thanks, and a most Jolly Halloween to you as well ;-)

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 4 years ago

      Just stopping by to wish you a Happy Halloween!

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      I don't celebrate The Day of the Dead, but I really enjoyed learning about it here.

    • profile image

      halloweenprops 4 years ago

      I shall have to try some of these Day of the Dead food recipes!

    • profile image

      sailor_man 4 years ago

      I return visit and recommend for other lenses

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens and great explanation for people who want to know more about this cool holiday (including me)! Cheers~cb

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 4 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Such a lot of information about the Day of the Dead and beautifully illustrated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I return visit and recommend for other lenses

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 5 years ago

      Great lens! I didn't really know much about the Day of the Dead so it was really interesting!

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 5 years ago

      I'm back Dedicated, and this still a great lens, Time to add a little more Angel Dust to the party... :) Blessed again. :)

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens! I don't celebrate, but maybe I should! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Halloween and Day of the Dead are two different days in our country, first is all about having fun, blows and whistles and everything (and it is totally commercialized), the other is much older, it is the day where people mourn because there dead relatives, but this one can miss the point too.

      November 1 is day when many families spend the day driving from cemetery to cemetery just to show there and light as much candles as possible.

      Probably one day things will change. Just don't know if for better or worse...

    • profile image

      Ladyeaglefeather 5 years ago

      Although, most people, I know, do not. My son and I do. It helped him get over the death of his grandmother.

    • raelcalu profile image

      raelcalu 5 years ago

      yes, we do in our country, it is called araw ng mga patay...in english, day of the dead...nice lens...thanks for the share.

    • chft55 lm profile image

      chft55 lm 5 years ago

      I remember celebrating with my elementary school. We would eat the bread and have little candy skulls. It was really fun to learn about.

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 5 years ago from California

      Just happens to be my birthday, so ya I celebrate!

    • hartworks lm profile image

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      My husband and I sit down in the evening with candles and invite those on the other site -- human and four-legged -- to join us. Sometimes they have very specific things to say, other times it is more a general celebration of love beyond borders.

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      I love Day of the Dead art work. My whole house would be Skull and Roses if it were up to my hubby. When ever I wanted a new pet but knew my husband would flip I would name it Jerry, Bob, Phil etc. I had a bird named Sunshine Daydream. He couldn't kick it out.

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 5 years ago

      No, but it;s a great idea! Enjoyed visiting this lens! :)

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Thank you for the Pin and participation; yup, I love this Holiday too, and it's gaining in popularity in the USA ;-)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Really nice lens, I love the Day of the Dead. Pinned to my Holidays board.

    • KathyBatesel profile image

      KathyBatesel 5 years ago

      I don't celebrate it, but found Dia de los Muertos items throughout the shops when I visited Mexico. I vaguely knew its purpose, but I didn't know a lot of the things you said here. Thank you!

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 5 years ago

      I had heard of the Day of the Dead but didn't know much about it!! Great lens!

    • hippiechicjewelz profile image

      hippiechicjewelz 5 years ago

      I have an infatuation with sugar skulls, most of my jewelry designs are focused around them. This lens is AWESOME! I especially loved the day of the dead bread recipe, so very neat! A great lens, truly fascinating!

    • jethrosas profile image

      Jethro 5 years ago from Philippines

      We go to cemetery and pray for them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just had to come back to see your Bread of the Dead recipe again. I forgot to mention that we do have a recipe module you could use so your readers can have a printable version and it is a nice lens update, I even use it for poetry.

    • Thrinsdream profile image

      Thrinsdream 5 years ago

      Yet another article that has told me about something I knew nothing about (this is a little too recurrent in my life). Loved it esp The Grateful Bread! right am off to learn more stuff. With thanks and appreciation. Cathi x

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 5 years ago

      Really cool and educational lens, I don't really celebrate the Day of the Dead other than celebrating Halloween and Memorial day.

      Very educational lens ... Liked, Shared and *Blessed*

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love the photo of "Grateful Bread."

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      It is a subject that I see in a lot of art, not all from Mexico. I have often considered trying something along these lines. Interesting read and lots of links - thanks. Blessed

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @Lee Hansen: I really enjoy reading your work, eventually, I'll read through all your Lenses; I savor them like a fine wine ;-)

      Thank you for stopping by and participating on my Day of the Dead Lens. I'd like to start making papier mache' Day of the Dead skulls; I bought a ceramic skull last Halloween to use as a mold (I'll get to it, eventually).

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      I like this topic and enjoy drawing skull art for dia de los muertos coloring and crafts.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A fascinating topic.thumbs up

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @domain19: Thank you for the visit and comment, domain19; have a great day.

    • domain19 profile image

      domain19 5 years ago

      like this article...nice lens... thanks for share...

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @cdevries: Thank you for the Squid Like and participation on my Lens :-)

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 5 years ago

      A fascinating topic. Thanks for the great photos!

    • profile image

      VillaDejaBlue 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @norma-holt: I'm glad you pointed that out, that was actually from a Day of the Dead site (in which I forgot to add a links too; your right on the money about that. That's pretty much more of the same, that was done to Witches and the Pagan Religions by the Catholic Church. I corrected that for now, and plan on putting more energy into this lens (as well as other lenses, I tweak them often). BTW I love your writings; you are the Quiz Master. Lol

    • Deadicated LM profile image
      Author

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @julieannbrady: I'm sorry to hear of your loss; tough way to start a New Year. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Haven't really celebrated The Day of the Dead ... since we just had a death in our family yesterday, it got me thinking about death and here I am. May they all rest in peace and find a brighter life out there.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Haven't really celebrated The Day of the Dead ... since we just had a death in our family yesterday, it got me thinking about death and here I am. May they all rest in peace and find a brighter life out there.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Wow! That video about Joe and Terri is really powerful. Amazing lens. Blessed.