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In Pictures: El Día de los Muertos

Mexico’s colourful traditions pay tribute to The Day of the Dead.

Nov 1, 2012
  • Special kites are flown at the cemetery to honour loved ones.
  • Memorial lampions lit at cemetery
  • Day of the Dead decorations
  • Sugar skull cookies celebrate The Day of the Dead.
  • Marigolds cover a cemetery arch for The Day of the Dead.
  • Relatives decorate a gravestone to remember their loved ones.
A distinctly Guatemalan tradition involves flying elaborate kites, fashioned from bamboo and tissue paper, over cemeteries. Those who practise this ritual believe the colourful kites act as beacons for the dead who wish to communicate with their living relatives.
Photography iStock
Candles and oil lamps are placed at the graves of family members for decoration and remembrance.
Photography Thinkstock
Papel picado is the Mexican art of hand-cut designs in tissue paper. These decorations are displayed during El Día de los Muertos to honour the deceased.
Photography iStock
Sugar skull cookies and treats are decorated and given as ofrendas (offerings) to the dead.
Photography Thinkstock
The symbolic flowers of this Mexican holiday, marigolds are believed to guide deceased souls with their sweet scent and bright colour.
Families decorate grave sites, build elaborate altars and bring offerings to commemorate their loved ones. Common decorations and offerings include candles, sugar skulls, tequila, personal mementos and marigolds.

The annual holiday known as El Día de los Muertos—or The Day of the Dead—dates back to the 16th century, when the Spanish invaded the area now known as Mexico. Aztecs, Mayans and other indigenous cultures who had traditionally honoured their dead during a month-long period at the end of summer gradually fused their rituals with the Spanish holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which fall on the first two days of November. Today El Día de los Muertos remains a major holiday in Mexico and in various other regions of North, Central and South America.


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