The Day of the Dead, also known as Día de los Muertos, is celebration in the Mexican culture that occurs for two days, this year taking place from November 1 to November 2. 

The Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican Americans for the past 3,000 years, going back to the Aztec empire. Although, other countries also celebrate the holiday.

For years, former Jersey City resident Kevin Guevara, used to see Día de los Muertos as a regular day until one day it became much more than that.

“My family never really celebrated the tradition until a few years ago after my grandma passed away,” shared Guevara. “My mom wanted to continue the tradition only after that in order to respect her mother.”

Those who celebrate the holiday believe that the gates of heaven open up at midnight on October 31, the spirits of children rejoining their families for 24 hours and the spirits of adults reuniting with their families on November 2.

An ofrenda setup. (Courtesy of Kevin Guevara)

Their favorite foods and other gifts are left at their graves or on what is called ofrendas in their homes. Ofrendas are special places similar to an altar honoring the dead and are decorated with candles, cempasuchil flowers, food and more.

Guevara’s family sets up the ofrenda with an orange table cloth, beads, candles and portraits of the deceased family members. A path of yellow and orange flower petals lead to the shrine itself.  

Close-up of an ofrenda. (Courtesy of Kevin Guevara)

“We serve food on the ofrenda which is always the late person’s favorite food, drink, and favorite items when they were alive. We typically have Corona for my grandparents since they loved beer, tamales, and chicken with mole sauce,” he explained.

During the holiday, family and friends ensure that their dead loved ones are treated as important guests. It is important for them to come together during this time to celebrate their loved ones who have passed. It is a tradition to celebrate the deceased with food, drinks and celebration. 

Guevara has grown fond of this tradition. 

“My favorite memory was the first year we started since it wasn’t typical for my family to do something so “old school.” It was all of our first time trying something out like that.” Guevara shared. “To do it for my grandpa and grandma made it feel as if they never really left and it makes life after death seem something to look forward to rather than be scared of since there is typically a lot of fear regarding one’s own demise. The optimism really makes it fun for a gloomy subject.”

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