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Hispanic Catholics Celebrate Day of the Dead on November 2

Hispanic Catholics in the United States, Mexico and South America celebrate the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos/Difuntos), or All Souls’ Day, in a special way by honoring, remembering and praying for loved ones who have gone before them. Together with all Catholics, they begin the month of November by remembering the great cloud of witnesses in the saints who now share the glory of heaven with God, and praying for the souls of their loved ones who have died. On Nov. 2, the tradition is to celebrate the Day of the Dead by building little altars (ofrendas) in homes or parishes that include pictures of their loved ones. Usually included in this ofrenda is a crucifix, flowers, candles and the favorite food and/or drink of the deceased. It may also include a favorite souvenir and a sugar candy calaverita (skull).

On All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, families go to the cemetery to clean the tomb, and then Mass is celebrated there the following day. The families bring flowers and offerings for their loved ones, and many share a meal there. These traditions celebrate the belief that there can be true communion between the living and the dead because of what Christ has done for us.

Parishioners from St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor also shared how they celebrate the Day of the Dead in their countries of origin:

  • “In Ecuador, we celebrate with a special drink, a homemade thick beverage made with some fruits similar to blueberries. We also bake bread with human figures (like stick figures).”
  • “In Peru, Mass is celebrated on Nov. 1. On Nov. 2, people visit the cemeteries and in some places people bring food, listen to music and remember their relatives.”
  • “In Guatemala, the adults are celebrated on Nov. 1 and the children on Nov. 2. On Nov. 1, we prepare a dish called fiambre, and just as in many other countries, we bring flowers to the holy dead, and the cemeteries are full with people from all over the country.”
  • “In Honduras, we celebrate the Day of the Dead by visiting the tombs of our relatives and bringing a bouquet of flowers. We clean the tomb and pray.”