HONOLULU (KHON2) — Dia de los Muertos. The Day of the Dead is a celebration that is observed throughout some Hispanic Cultures.

It is a time to reflect on our ancestors and to take their wisdom and life experiences forward with us into the coming year.

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With so many people around the world celebrating the Day of the Dead, KHON2.com decided to embark on a wee journey into the origins and practices of this sacred day.

Who invented the Day of the Dead?

The Mayas and Aztecs are credited with observing the celebrations of the ancestors that Spanish colonizers co-opted into the Catholic Church.

According to historians, observances for this holy day go as far back as 3,000 years ago in Mesoamerica (Central America).

The festivities that tribes and nations observed were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl. In Aztec beliefs, Mictecacihuatl was the god who oversaw the death and the underworld.

Since its inception, the Day of the Dead has iconography associated with skulls and skeletons, altars and other imagery/actions associated with death. But the celebration is actually about those who remain on this Earth to continue living.

It was the passage of wisdom and knowledge from one generation to the next that created the core meaning of this ancient holiday.

Who celebrates the Day of the Dead?

While it was invented by the peoples of Mesoamerica some 3,000 years ago, when Spanish Conquistadores led colonization efforts in the “New World”, many local traditions and practices were co-opted by the Catholic Church.

Co-opting these indigenous rituals was a way of subverting the historical influences of these beliefs and shifting them to seem like Christian practices.

So, the peoples of Mexico continue to be the primary observers of Dia de los Muertos. It is also celebrated in the United States, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala and even Haiti.

However, as Spanish colonization spread to The Philippines, the Day of the Dead jumped across the Pacific and has become a big celebration amongst Filipinos.

Brazil also celebrates the Day of the Dead known as Dia de Finados.

Regardless of where or who is celebrating their ancestors, food is major part of how observers conceptualize their rituals.

How to celebrate the Day of the Dead

While it is not advised to appropriate cultures, there is nothing wrong with celebrating cultural events and holidays in a respectful and present manner.

For those celebrating, it is customary to visit the gravesite of a lost loved one. This is a day of remembrance for whole families; so, celebrating the life of someone we love is a way of honoring their memory and the contributions they made while alive.

While at the cemetery, you can have a picnic near the gravesite. You can even bring the favorite foods of the loved ones you are honoring.

At home, you can make an altar known as an ofrenda. These are usually populated with photos, candles, favorite foods, souvenirs and other things that were important to the loved ones.

Something fun you can do with keiki is to make sugar skulls. It’s the official candy of the Day of the Dead. This sweet treat is sure to make any celebration fun and memorable. Another important component of celebrating is making pan de muerto.

Marigolds are the official flower of the Day of the Dead. Indigenous to Mesoamerica, these flowers are used in nearly every aspect of the celebration.

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We hope that you have a wonderful celebration as you remember lost loved ones and keep their memories alive. Feliz Dia de los Muertos.