Dia De Los Muertos is about the celebration of life and remembering those who’ve passed. Because it coincides with Halloween and features skeleton-like face painting and extravagant costumes, it is often  mistaken for “Mexican Halloween.”

The holiday is traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1 (All Saints Day) where participants would honor the children and infants who have passed. On Nov. 2 (All Soul’s Day), you honor the adults. Many celebrate the holiday by going to church, revisiting graves, praying and going to the festivals in honor of the day

Ofrendas are an essential part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. The word ofrenda means offering in Spanish. They are also called altares or altars, but they are not for worship. They are for setting up items, such as pictures, favorite foods or drink,  that honor and remind the living of the deceased

An ofrenda is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos celebration. An ofrenda, which may be quite large and elaborate, is usually created for an individual person who has died and is intended to welcome him/her to the altar setting

Here’s how to offer a proper reception.

  • A large photograph of your loved one is the centerpiece. Smaller, informal snapshots can adorn the lower levels.
  • Water or, more typically, fruit punch is served to refresh a spirit after his journey.
  • Pan de muerto, or “bread of the dead,” is a sweet treat. Found at most panaderías, the round loaf is topped with a skull and crossbones.
  • Salt, a symbol of purification, is for the dead to season the food you’ve offered him.
  • The deceased’s favorite knickknacks, food, or tools (if he was a barber, for example, his straight razor, foam brush, and scissors) create a familiar setting for his return.
  • Cempasuchitl, the Aztec term for “marigolds,” grow and wilt quickly, reflecting the fleeting nature of life. Their aroma helps lure a spirit back.
  • Papel picado serves as a colorful and meaningful trim: Black represents death, purple means grief or mourning, pink is for celebration, white symbolizes hope, and yellow stands in for the sun.
  • Four candles at the top represent the cardinal directions and provide a lighted path to this world.
  • Sugar skulls, or calaveras, add a lighthearted touch—for both the dead and the living.
  • Burning coals is a holdover tradition from the Aztecs, who used the incense as an offering to the gods. It is still used in Catholic funeral masses.