Americans adopt Day of the Dead traditions

One of Mexico’s most popular annual celebrations — known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead — is gaining a steady presence in many parts of the United States, thanks largely to the country’s Hispanic population.

Children with marigold flowers (© Jim West/Alamy)
Members of Detroit’s Mexican-American community celebrate the Day of the Dead. (© Jim West/Alamy)

The Day of the Dead calls for families to honor their deceased loved ones with graveside picnics and prayerful, all-night vigils. Tombstones and private altars are decorated with candles, marigolds, sugar-coated skulls and the favorite foods or possessions of the departed.

Parade of people dressed in costume (© Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Costumed people carry an effigy of the singer David Bowie, who died in 2016, in a Día de los Muertos festival at a cemetery in Hollywood, California. (© Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Drawing on pre-Columbian rituals, the holiday has gradually incorporated Roman Catholic themes. It overlaps with All Saints’ Day (November 1, honoring all saints known and unknown) and All Souls’ Day (November 2, marked by Catholics as a holy day and by other Christians as a day to pray for the souls of the dead).

In 2017, Americans will hold Day of the Dead events from October 31 to November 2, with festivals and parades adding color and energy to the commemorations.