Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

What is Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead, otherwise known as Día de los Muertos, is a celebration of life as people remember their ancestors. During this holiday, it is believed that past relatives return as spirits to the land of the living to spend time with their loved ones. Although this holiday originated in Mexico, it is celebrated throughout Latin America during a two-day festival (Nov. 1 and 2).

The centerpiece of this celebration is the altar which people display in their homes and in cemeteries. The purpose of the altar is to be a welcoming point for spirits traveling to the land of the living. The contents of the altar depend on the family member being remembered. Some things that can be expected on an altar are water; to drink after the long journey, the relative’s favorite foods, family pictures, candles (to light the way), seasonal bread, flowers (typically marigolds) and any past possessions. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the contents of the altar are meant to show respect for past relatives with an emphasis on their life rather than their passing.

On altars and all throughout the city, you can expect to see colorful cut paper, more commonly known as papel picado. This cut paper is used throughout the year, but it is specifically used during Day of the Dead to symbolize the delicacy of life. Other common things to see during this celebration are colorful skulls (made from different materials like wood or even sugar!), skeletons (often displayed doing everyday activities), costumes and a community of people. The abundance of skulls and skeletons during this holiday is a way to lightheartedly remember the tradition that life continues after death.

You may wonder how you can embody the family sentiment that comes with this celebration in your home. Every family is different, but something to consider while thinking about this is: What are your current family traditions and why do you celebrate events in certain ways? What is it about your way of celebrating that makes an event special to you and your family?


For more information on Day of the Dead, view this article!

Events throughout Utah: If you’d like to participate in a Day of the Dead event around your area, look below                                                West Valley: Utah Cultural Celebration Center

Moab: Multicultural Center

Ogden: Ogden Union Station

Lehi: Thanksgiving Point



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