The celebration is basically a party to remember the dead. People create altars in their homes dedicated to a family member that has passed away. The surround the altar with the deceased favorite foods and light candles. A sugar skeleton had the name of the dead written on it and a family member eats it in remembrance. In other countries loved one's spend the entire day at the cemetery, decorating the headstone with marigolds and candles. They spend the day gathered around headstones eating and drinking. Gifts like toys for children or tequila bottles for adults are left at grave sites for the departed.
The celebration originated some 3000 years ago by the Aztecs who believed in celebrating death. They believed life to be only a dream and death to be the time you were really awake. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it through celebration.
This all can seem a little morbid. The only time I ever talk about death was wearing all black and speaking very softly. I never saw it as this brightly colorful celebration of life. But that is in fact what we can learn from the Aztecs.
I like the idea of remembering lost loved ones through a beautiful celebration full of great food, vibrant decorations and lots of candlelight. It sure beats crying alone. I think the dead would appreciate such a celebration way more than the whole behind closed doors mourning thing.
So this year consider changing things up a little and hosting a Day of the Dead Party. It definitely would be interesting and who knows, maybe the Aztecs knew something about combining parties and grief that we don't. Some photos courtesy of Kara's Party Ideas.