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23 Spanish Words For Day of The Dead

El día de los muertos is a monument to the binding of Spanish and indigenous culture which made Mexico what it is today. This tradition comes from the Aztecs who celebrated their deceased loved ones one month out of every year.

This is a day to drink atole (delicious corn-based drink), reflect on the joy of life, and celebrate the legacy of your family members.

Fingers crossed, you’ll get the chance to experience this beautiful tradition this year! However, before you do, we need to learn some vocabulary and history first.

In this article, we’ll go over the history, and all of the 23 Spanish words related to Day of the Dead that you should know going into one of these celebrations.

picture of two skeletons dancing with day of the dead paint on their faces, and a day of the dad skull in the middle with text that says "Day Of The Dead Vocabulary"

History of The Day of The Dead History

The history goes all the way back to the Aztecs, who used to dedicate an entire month to celebrating and remembering the dead. Originally, this ritual fell around the end of July and early August in the Aztec calendar.

But after the Spanish conquest, it was shifted to coincide with All Hallows Eve, known as "Dia de Todos Santos." So now, Mexicans commemorate the Day of the Dead on the first two days of November.

Dia de los Muertos has evolved in Mexico and other Central American countries. Families visit graveyards, sprucing up the resting places of their loved ones. They construct ofrendas, offering tributes to the returning spirits.

While the spirits can't enjoy the sweets on the altar, the living are more than happy to savor the candy skulls, sugar skeletons, and sweet pan de muerto (bread of the dead). It's a lively celebration!

two cartoon indigenous people standing infront of an aztec pyramid with the words "The Aztecs are responsible for “The Day Of The Dead” however, they used to celebrate it for an entire month"

How is the Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico?

The Day of the Dead, known as "Dia de los Muertos" in Mexico, is celebrated with vibrant and colorful traditions. On November 2nd families come together to honor their deceased loved ones.

They create elaborate altars adorned with flowers, fruit, and candy, along with photos and mementos of the deceased. Dancing and singing skeletons, as well as parades and processions, are common sights during the celebration.

People visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors. Offerings are made to welcome the spirits of the departed. While the holiday acknowledges death, it is ultimately a lively and joyous celebration of life and the continuity of family bonds.

picture of a day of the dead alter, with a dancing skeleton and a bunch of marygold flowers and a text that says "During the Day of the dead people built alters and offer gifts to their deceased loved ones as they dance and sing - celebrating life, memories and family. "

What Is The Flower For The Day of The Dead?

The flower most commonly associated with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations in Mexico is the marigold. These bright orange or yellow marigolds are sometimes referred to as "Mexican marigolds" or "cempasúchil" in Spanish.

Marigolds hold special significance during Dia de los Muertos because they are believed to guide the spirits of the deceased back to the world of the living. Their vibrant color and strong scent are thought to help attract and guide the souls of loved ones to the ofrendas (offerings) placed on altars.

These marigolds are often used to decorate alongside other offerings like food, candles, incense, and photos of the deceased. They are an integral part of the colorful and symbolic displays created to honor and remember those who have passed away during the Day of the Dead festivities.

picture of two marygold flowers and a text that says "The flower used to decorate during Day of the dead is called a “marygold” or “cempasúchil” (in Spanish). It’s believed that the beautiful color and scent helps guide the dead to the alter"

23 Spanish Words For Day of The Dead

  • Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead

  • Ofrenda - Offering

  • Altar - Altar

  • Calavera - Skull

  • Cempasúchil - Marigold flower

  • Pan de Muerto - Bread of the Dead

Pan de Muerto, or "Bread of the Dead," is a sweet and symbolic bread traditionally enjoyed during Mexico's Day of the Dead festivities. Its round shape with skull and bone decorations represents a connection between the living and the deceased and is a central element of the ofrenda, or altar, dedicated to honoring loved ones who have passed away.

  • Calaca - Skeleton

  • Velas - Candles

  • Incienso - Incense

  • Callejoneada - Nighttime procession

A "Callejoneada" is a lively nighttime walk with big groups of people through Mexican towns accompanied by music and singing.

  • Tumba - Grave

  • Almas - Souls

  • Espíritu - Spirit

  • Mole - Traditional sauce

In Mexico, "mole" is a rich and flavorful sauce that is a staple of Mexican cuisine. Mole sauce is known for its complex combination of ingredients, which can include chili peppers, chocolate, spices, and various other ingredients depending on the region and type of mole.

  • Atole - Hot corn-based beverage

In Mexico, "atole" is a traditional hot drink made from corn dough, water or milk, sweeteners (like sugar or cinnamon), and flavorings, such as cocoa, vanilla, or fruit.

  • Recuerdo - Memento

  • Muerte - Death

  • Familia - Family

  • Recuerdos - Memories

  • Abuelos - Grandparents

  • Vida - Life

  • Tradición - Tradition

  • Difunto - A dead person

Pro Tip: Remember that El Día De Los Muertos is an extremely special and spiritual day for some. If you want to celebrate the traditions, don't get too wasted, and maintain a respectful demeanor.

If you are going to celebrate El Día De Los Muertos with Mexicans, check out this article where you can learn their dialect including slang, expressions, and pronunciation - so that you fit right in!


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