Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration of the lives of lost loved ones, observed throughout Latin America, that seems to be getting bigger elsewhere every year. “With its popularity in the US and with rising immigration from Mexico to Europe, the UK, Australia, Canada and even places like Japan, Day of the Dead is now celebrated in many countries around the world,” says Marchi.
It’s a Party, Not a Wake
“The best Day of the Dead parties include an altar with flowers, photos and mementos of beloved deceased people, along with great food and music,” says Marchi. “Besides an altar (which should have lots of flowers, beautiful decorations and candles on it), one needs to have papel picado: Spanish for ‘cut paper’ decorations made of coloured tissue paper. These are used in Mexico and Central America whenever there’s a party, and especially for Day of the Dead.”
Skulls Are a Must
“No Day of the Dead party would be complete without sugar skulls!” insists Marchi. “Sugar skulls (made by pouring liquid sugar into skull moulds) are uniquely Mexican. The skulls decorate altars and are exchanged by school children as gifts. They can be eaten, but you’d be eating pure sugar, so they’re mostly for decorative purposes.”
If in Doubt, Do Both
“Both Halloween and the Day of the Dead revolve around spirits returning to Earth,” says Marchi. “Halloween has become a holiday to dress up like ghosts, goblins and other ‘dead’ creatures, and no longer emphasises remembering family ancestors, but Day of the Dead still does. However, it’s clear that they can complement rather than clash with each other.”
Read more of Marchi’s advice in her book Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon.