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5 things you didn't know about Dia de los Muertos

Posted: 5:41 PM, Oct 22, 2017
Updated: 2017-10-22 20:41:56-04

Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish) is gaining popularity in North America. 

Case in point - Mexico City never actually had a Day of the Dead parade until 2016. City officials were inspired to create one after seeing how cool the fake parade looked in "Spectre." Before then, the holiday was mostly celebrated in private homes or small candlelit events.  

We're here to help explain the basics of the holiday. Here are five things you didn't know about the Day of the Dead:

1. It should really be called "Days of the Dead"

On the first two days of November, families honor the dearly departed. Nov. 1 is called "Day of the Innocents," where children and infants are honored. The following day commemorates adults.

2. Party at the cemetery

Usually a place for mourning, families will clean and decorate the grave sites of those lost. Some even bring music, food, and stay the night.

3. Items on the altar help the journey

Water is placed at the decorated grave sites to help the dead with thirst and cleaning as their spirits come to visit. Candles help light the way, and marigolds lure the dead with their smell and color.

4. Real skulls were once used during festivities

At one time, the sugar skull tradition used real skulls. They were eventually swapped out with fake ones, though not all of them are edible.

5. La Catrina is the most famous skull

The elegant skull "La Calavera Catrina" was created by famous Mexican printmaker Jose  Guadalupe Posada in the early 20th century and has become a cultural icon in Mexico. The image depicts a skeleton wearing an upper-class European hat and dress.