Honoring Tradition: Celebrating Día de los Muertos at Your Library

Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. The holiday has grown in popularity beyond Mexico and is now celebrated in various forms in many parts of the world, including the United States. Rooted in indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and Catholicism, the holiday is a time when families come together to remember and honor their loved ones who have passed away.

During the holidays, it is typical to visit, clean, and decorate the grave of a loved one and to construct an altar in your home, decorated with colorful cut tissue paper (papel picado) and photos (fotos) of those you remember.

The altar usually consists of offerings (ofrendas), like the favorite foods and mementos of the departed. There are also scented orange marigold flowers (cempasúchil), which guide the spirits to their offerings: bread of the dead (pan de muertos), water (agua), candles (velas) and skulls (calaveras) in the form of sugar candies (alfeñiques). Incense (copal) is burned to help attract the spirits of loved ones to the altar, enticing them to come and join the living during the Day of the Dead celebration.

You'll find carefully crafted Día de los Muertos displays and altars at some of our libraries that pay homage to this tradition. These altars, known as "ofrendas," are adorned with marigold flowers, candles, sugar skulls, and photos of family, friends, and pets.  Many libraries also offer programs and Día de los Muertos celebrations. These activities provide an opportunity to learn more about the holiday and encourage creativity through art and craft sessions, like making paper marigolds to adorn an ofrenda or creating sugar skulls.

Día de los Muertos is a vibrant and culturally rich holiday and is a beautiful way to remember and celebrate our deceased loved ones. We invite you to celebrate Día de los Muertos at Contra Costa County Libraries to experience a meaningful tradition that promotes family, community, and the celebration of life.