As second-generation business owners of Mexican-American heritage, my family and I have a deep respect and love for the Dia de los Muertos festival. This vibrant and culturally rich celebration has deep-rooted traditions that hold immense importance in our personal lives and how we conduct our businesses.
This blog post is dedicated to shedding light on the essence of Dia de los Muertos, the significance of the ofrenda and use of marigolds, the use of bright colors, and how the festival ultimately serves as a powerful celebration of life.
The Dia de los Muertos Festival
Many Americans are familiar with Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, thanks to the movie Coco. This annual Mexican holiday is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. It is a time when families come together to remember and honor their deceased loved ones, celebrating their lives rather than mourning their deaths. It is a colorful, lively, and profound tradition connecting us with our roots, starkly contrasting the often somber tone of other remembrance ceremonies.
The Ofrenda: A Tribute to Those Gone
At the heart of Dia de los Muertos lies the ofrenda, a beautiful and intricate altar set up in homes to honor the departed. The ofrenda typically includes photographs of the loved ones who have passed, their favorite foods, drinks, belongings, and marigold flowers and candles. These offerings are placed at the ofrenda to guide the spirits back to the living world during the celebration, and they serve as a way to remember and cherish the memories of our loved ones.
Festival Symbols: Vibrant Marigolds
Marigolds, or “cempasúchil” in Nahuatl, are an iconic symbol of Dia de los Muertos. The vibrant orange and yellow flowers are believed to attract the souls of the departed with their vibrant colors and sweet scent. Marigolds are used to create elaborate paths leading to the ofrenda and adorn the altars themselves. These flowers bring a sense of warmth and welcome to a Dia de Los Muertos celebration, creating an atmosphere where all are encouraged to celebrate life and remember those who have passed away. They serve as a reminder that, just like marigolds, the beauty of life and memory can thrive even in the face of adversity.
The Use of Bright Colors and Their Meanings
One of the most striking aspects of Dia de los Muertos is the use of vibrant, bright colors in decorations, costumes, and makeup. These colors represent the celebration of life and the belief that death is a natural part of the human experience. Instead of dwelling on the sadness of loss, we embrace the opportunity to celebrate the unique lives our loved ones lived.
Orange – Orange is said to be the only color that visiting souls from the afterlife can see. It also symbolsizes the light of el sol, or the sun.
Yellow – Symbolic of light. Yellow in candle flames can also represent each soul honored and remembered at a family’s altar and honors those who passed at an older age.
Pink or Red – Pink is symbolic of the joy people feel when reunited with loved ones, while red may represent the blood of life.
Purple – Used in Papel Picado and other decorations, purple symbolizes grief and acknowledging loss from a family in both Catholic and ancient traditions.
White – Symbolic of purity, hope, and death. May also represent innocence in younger souls.
Black – Can represent the Mictlan, the Land of the Dead, from pre-Hispanic traditions.
When our business rebranded in 2022, we knew we wanted to use some of the same bright colors associated with our heritage. The gold and red hues we added to our branding are recognizable as colors often used for festivals, celebrations, and more. For us, they are a reminder of the richness of Mexican culture and a reflection of our commitment to celebrating diversity and cherishing the beautiful tapestry of human existence.
A Celebration of Life
Dia de los Muertos is ultimately a celebration of life, a testament to the enduring connections between the living and the departed.
As a business owner, I see this celebration as an opportunity to embrace the profound message it carries. By respecting and participating in this tradition, we honor our ancestors, remember our roots, and create a sense of unity in our community.
This year, we’re thrilled to work with the incredible team at Woodstock Arts to bring the first-ever Dia de Los Muertos festival to downtown Woodstock’s event green. The organization is dedicated to inviting inclusion and unity through its new festival series, fostering a stronger sense of community and appreciation for the diverse tapestry of humanity. Learn more about the festival (and others) by visiting their site.
We hope you come out and join us on Sunday, November 5th!