Celebrating Día de los Muertos

Drawing of a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda or offering table.

Día de Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” is a beloved holiday celebrated on November 1st through the 2nd by families throughout Mexico and families who share Mexican heritage. This cultural holiday is truly about commemorating, honoring, and remembering passed loved ones. Traditionally, families set up an ofrenda or “offering,” which includes their passed loved one’s photos, favorite foods, marigolds, specially baked breads, candles, and other decorations.

Día de Los Muertos is not a somber holiday but rather a celebratory one! Brightly colored floral decorations, intricately decorated calaveras or “sugar skulls” and skeleton-themed face painting are often part of the celebration.

Setting Up an Ofrenda

The ofrenda or “offering,” is what the celebration revolves around. It’s custom to set up a colorful multi-level table display, with the top portion reserved for photos of passed loved ones, their favorite things, calaveras or “sugar skulls”, marigolds, and candles. Photos of the passed and their favorite things are essential, as they indicate that the offerings are intended for them. On the lower part of the table is where food like pan de muerto or “bread of the dead,” traditional Mexican dishes like mole or tamales, and fruit are placed. However the dishes may change as families usually make their passed loved one’s favorite foods. Each family’s ofrenda is unique and no two are alike!

If your family celebrates, think of what sets your ofrenda apart from others? What were your loved one’s favorite things, foods and drinks? This holiday is really a time to cherish memories and meals you shared with them.

Foods to Celebrate With

Food is such an important aspect of this holiday. Families traditionally cook their passed loved one’s favorite dishes during this holiday, so the variety of food is different depending on their loved one’s taste. Here are some popular food and drinks made during the festivities.

Pan de Muerto or "bread of the dead" served with coffee on a colorful tablecloth.

Pan De Muerto

Pan de Muerto or “Bread of the Dead,” can be found on almost every family’s ofrenda. This sweet bread is flavored with orange peel, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla. The bread is usually round and topped with bone shaped decorations.

Chicken mole served with Spanish red rice.

Mole

Mole is a traditional dish that’s popular during this festive time. Chocolate, spices, nuts, chiles, and various other ingredients are blended to make a rich and savory sauce. It’s usually served with chicken but, mole is versatile and the sauce can be made into different dishes.

Champurrado or "thickened Mexican hot chocolate" served with pan de muerto.

Champurrado

Champurrado is a spiced hot chocolate beverage, thickened with corn masa “dough”. This thick hot chocolate has flavors of cinnamon, cloves, dark chocolate, and earthy corn. Families often make very large batches of the drink and it’s prepared in a clay pot with a special milk frother called a mollinio.

Traditional Decorations

Decorating with bright, festive colors is essential for Día de los Muertos! Sugar skulls, colored banners, various colors of marigolds, and candles are often found on ofrendas.

A colorful ofrenda or "offering table" setup decorated with skulls and marigolds.

Marigolds

Marigolds are the traditional flower for Día de los Muertos. It’s common to see ofrendas decorated with plenty of them and some families will sprinkle the petals throughout the table. It’s believed the smell and bright colors of the flowers help guide the spirits of passed loved ones.

A Mexican sugar skull placed on top of an ofrenda table next to pan de muerto.

Calaveras

Calaveras or “sugar skulls,” are a popular decoration and a fun activity for kids! These colorful molded sugar skulls are decorated with colorful icing. While they are edible, they are usually not eaten.

Celebrate the memory of your loved ones with their favorite foods and fresh ingredients from Stater Bros. Markets. Find your local store and pick up everything you need for your family’s ofrenda.

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