Día de los Muertos

Gourmet Girl - October 29, 2014

The Day of the Dead dates back to pre-Columbian times, when rituals honoring those who had passed on were celebrated for a full month

Pan de Muerto (kiwilmon.com)

As Americans celebrate Halloween on October 31 with trick-or-treating, apple-bopping and haunted houses and hayrides, people around the world, including here in Santa Fe, honor the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos—a three-day Mexican fiesta filled with sugar skulls, cardboard skeletons, papel picado (tissue paper decorations), muertos (the “bread of the dead””) and marigolds, the flowers of the dead.

The event begins on All Hallow's Eve, when children traditionally create an ofredo, or altar, inviting los angelitos (spirits of children) to return for a visit. On all Saint's Day (November 1), the spirits of adults are invited to visit and food and trinkets are left out in the home for the departed. On All Soul's Day (November 2), families visit cemeteries to decorate their relatives' graves with marigolds, thought to attract the dead, and leave offerings—bottles of tequila and mezcal, favorite foods and candies and toys for los angelitos.

At home, families prepare candied pumpkin and decorated sugar skulls, which is considered a fine art in Mexico. They also make pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread shaped in circles, rabbits and skulls decorated with white frosting to resemble twisted bones or covered with pastry cut-outs in the shape of bones. Atole, a hot beverage made of masa gruel is left out to warm and nourish the spirits as they arrive and depart.

The Day of the Dead dates back to pre-Columbian times, when rituals honoring those who had passed on were celebrated for a full month, the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, or the beginning of August. Festivities honored to the “Lady of the Dead,” or the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Today, people celebrate the holiday around the world, from Brazil, where people visit cemeteries and churches on Día de Finados to Spain, where festivals, parades and gatherings at cemeteries honor those who've passed on.

In Ecuador, the day is celebrated with ceremonial foods that include colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge made with Andean blackberry and purple maize, and guagua de pan, a wheat-based bread shaped like a baby in swaddling and stuffed with savory cheese or a sweet guava paste filling. In Austria, cakes are left on the table for the dearly departed, and kept room warm for their comfort, while in Brittany, people leave a supper on the table.

Santa Fe offers Day of the Dead celebrations, and below are just a few. Check the SantaFe.com Calendar for a full listing of events and parties this weekend!

The Museum of International Folk Art invites the public to Día de los Muertes, the creation of a community ofrenda, or altar, on Saturday Nov. 1 from 5 to 7 pm. Bring a photo of your loved one to add to the altar. Enjoy live music by Mariachi Buenaventura and refreshments. On Sunday, November 2, from 1 to 4 pm, learn to decorate sugar skulls and make muertos nichos, or memory boxes, take in an Aztec dance performance by Danza MeXiKa and try some traditional pan de muerto. Costumes are encouraged!

The brand new Blue Rooster hosts a Día de los Muertes party featuring music by DJ Ooona and DJ AztechSol on Saturday, November 1, starting at 8 pm.

The 22nd South Valley Marigold Parade in Albuquerque features music, food, dancing and art, with altars, or ofrendos, built to honor those who have passed on. The parade takes place Sunday, November 2 from 2 to 6 pm, and starts at Centro Familiar and Isleta and ends at the Westside Community Center, 1250 Isleta SW.