Día de los Muertos

[ Spanish dee-ahthe laws mwer-taws ]
/ Spanish ˈdi ɑ ðɛ lɔs ˈmwɛr tɔs /
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noun Spanish
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Origin of Día de los Muertos

First recorded in 1930–35

Words nearby Día de los Muertos

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos is a festival in celebration and honor of the souls of the dead. It is primarily celebrated in Mexico and among people with Mexican heritage, as well as in some other Central and South American countries.

Día de los Muertos is Spanish for Day of the Dead. Both names are used for the holiday in English.

Día de los Muertos is observed as a day to honor deceased family members and loved ones by “welcoming them back” through various customs, including making dedicated altars, laying out special food offerings, and visiting their graves.

Though the focus of the festival can be somber, it is typically observed in festive and celebratory ways, including with parades in which the souls of the dead are said to take part.

The festival is especially associated with decorative skulls, candies known as sugar skulls, and displays of orange marigold flowers.

Día de los Muertos is sometimes associated with Halloween due to its proximity to the day and the similarity of some of the traditions, but it is a distinct and separate holiday. However, both celebrations share some roots and traditions with the Christian holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which Día de los Muertos coincides with.

When is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos is observed each year on November 1 and 2.

More information and context on Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico. Its ultimate origins are debated, but many of its traditions are thought to be based on Indigenous customs, including those of the Aztecs and Toltecs. The lighthearted tone of the festival is thought to derive from the fact that mourning practices in such cultures have traditionally been less somber due to beliefs that souls of the dead remain among the living. Some of the customs are often traced to influences from Christian European colonizers and missionaries, notably the placing of the festival to coincide with the Christian holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Día de los Muertos?

How is Día de los Muertos discussed in real life?

Día de los Muertos is primarily celebrated in Mexico and by people with Mexican heritage, but it is also observed in many places throughout Central and South America. Awareness of and interest in the holiday outside of these places has grown in recent years, and symbols associated with holiday, especially decorative skulls, have become popular.



Try using Día de los Muertos!

True or False?

Día de los Muertos takes place over two days.

How to use Día de los Muertos in a sentence