Somehow Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, confuses Americans. Often mistakenly thought of as “Mexican Halloween,” Día de los Muertos is actually a celebration of the deceased, a way to embrace rather than fear death. Originally an Aztec holiday dedicated to Mictlantecuhtli, the goddess of death, it was later smelted into with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day after the Spanish came to the New World.
Today many Latin American countries celebrate a pair of holidays: November 1, Día de los Inocentes, on which children who’ve died will return to their families; and November 2, Día de los Muertos, for departed adults. Leading up to their loved ones’ return, family and friends decorate intricate and ornate altars known as ofrendas in their honor, with photos, flowers -- often marigolds -- shots of mezcal, candles, and other personal items.