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If you’re new to celebrating Dia de los Muertos, try shopping from these authentic Mexican retailers to decorate your altar.

Navpreet Dhillon  – September 14, 2021

A common misconception about Dia de los Muertos is that it’s the Mexican version of Halloween. In fact, for the first-time celebrators out there, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, honors late family, friends, and community members who have passed through a colorful, happy holiday. Instead of a day of mourning, people commemorate life.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all across the West in a variety of ways, both public and private.

The majority of the nation’s Mexican population lives in the West, with more than a third in California, according to the Pew Research Center. In the region, there are public Dia de los Muertos festivals where people pay their respects and join the celebration.

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Traditional Dia de los Muertos celebrations last two days, from Nov. 1-2, and involve a variety of festivities. Most often, people start by visiting their deceased loved ones’ grave sites and bring ofrendas, or offerings, such as marigold flowers and candles to attract souls to the site. The offerings include the deceased person’s favorite foods, drinks, and pictures of them. The belief is that placing their favorite items on the gravesite will make the souls comfortable with returning to visit their loved ones. 

Often, people who celebrate the holiday set up decorative altars at home filled with items including photos of deceased loved ones, food offerings, and candles. In the West, the decor often follows Mexican folk art style, which includes bright colors, mythical animals, and flat figures.

Because Dia de los Muertos is about inviting the souls back home and remembering them, the holiday is full of sweets like chocolate, sugar skulls, and cookies, and traditional foods like tamales, mole, chalupas, and pozole. Hot drinks are served in decorative ceramic mugs called jarritos, and the altars typically have mezcal or tequila with a jicara (a cup made from a gourd).

If you’re ready to join in on the celebrations for Dia de los Muertos, shop for your decor from these stores based in Mexico.