Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos Explained by Ael Becker Weddings

Insight : Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos

I’m always looking forward to the month of November, not only because I was born in this month, but because we celebrate one of my favorite Mexican traditions: The day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos.

Before I start, I want to be clear about something … although the iconic “La Catrina” has become very representative of the Day of the Dead, earning a mention in this post, there are many other meaningful elements involved in these celebrations which I’ll try to explain briefly below …

La Catrina by Magic Art Wedding Studio, Riviera Maya, Mexico

La Catrina by Magic Art Wedding Studio, Riviera Maya, MX

Pan de Muertos. Accompanied by a hot chocolate drink, traditionally made with Chocolate Abuelita. It’s a round-shaped bread adorned with “bone-like” decorations and sprinkled with sugar. Most people decorate their altars with it, but my family actually serves it to friends and family who come to celebrate the Day of the Dead with us.

El Altar de Muertos. To me, this is the main focus of the Day of the Dead celebrations. The altar is carefully prepped to honor our lost loved ones and not in a creepy kind of way but with much joy and love; sometimes even adding a bit of humor!

The altar is made of three levels (this may vary depending on which part of Mexico you come from). Each level represents the steps a soul has to make to get to heaven and are decorated with the following must-have items:

  • Cempasuchil Flowers. Round and orange, these colorful flowers are used to decorate the Altar and bring some life to it. My mom also creates a path with petals on the floor to lead the way. Remember that we believe that the souls of our loved ones actually visit us on this day, so we prep the altar with all of their favorite food, drinks, and items to help them continue with their journey.
  • Sugar Skulls. Representing our departed loved ones. Although they also serve as decoration and come in all different sizes and beautiful designs.
  • Candles. The “light” that guides the souls to their final resting place.
  • Pictures. Of our deceased loved ones, although this is where you can get creative … For example, I recently went to a friend’s local bar in Playa del Carmen who created an altar honoring all of the famous rock singers in history. I thought it was pretty cool 😉
  • Water & Food. The water is for the thirsty souls and in terms of food, we usually cook our lost loved ones favorite meals (i.e. mole, my grandpa’s favorite meatballs, enfrijoladas, my sister’s tomato salad, etc…). You can also place a bottle of their favorite liquor and cigars.
  • A cross. As most Mexican families are very religious.
  • Colors. The table of the altar is usually covered with a white cloth, representing heaven. It’s decorated with all of the items mentioned above and Papel Picado or Chiseled Paper representing the wind. The Papel Picado comes in all colors but we mostly use orange representing the earth and purple to keep the bad spirits away, just in case.
  • Copal and salt. Both of these elements are believed to purify the ambiance and the altar. The smell of copal also serves as a guide for the souls.

As you can see, we put much thought into this day and all of this is done with much love and respect. It’s also a great excuse to gather friends and family for some hot chocolate, pan de muertos and a good chat. This year, as per my request, my parents served delicious Tlacoyos prepped by my uncle and his wife.

I truly hope you enjoyed the read!! This is a very extensive topic and promise to give you more info in future posts. In the meantime, here are some pics of my mom’s 2017 & 2018 altar and a short video you might enjoy …

Altar de Muertos, dia de muertos en Cancun

Authentic Altar de Muertos, Day of the Dead 2017

Honoring our lost loved ones. Altar de Muertos in Cancun. Ael Becker Weddings

A special tribute to my sister #Canoera in our 2018’s Altar de Muertos. Read about her TRAVESIA SAGRADA MAYA.

Altar de Muertos, Day of the Dead explained by Ael Becker Weddings

Our 2018 Altar de Muertos

Creative cemetery for the Day of the Dead Celebrations in Cancun. Ael Becker Weddings

El panteon de las animas. Day of the Dead Celebrations in Cancun, Mexico

Day of the Dead celebrations in Cancun, Mexico. Ael Becker Weddings

Friends and family join us every year to see our traditional Altar de Muertos, Cancun, Mexico



  • Martha Luisa November 3, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Felicidades Ael, muy clara y linda descripción . Saludos!

    • aelbeckerweddings November 3, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Mil gracias!!! Saludos 😉

  • Rafael Enciso November 7, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Que buen comentario del día de muertos, me encantó.

    • aelbeckerweddings November 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Gracias, que bueno que te gusto 😀

  • Martha Luisa November 4, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Preciosa tradición y muy detallada la información . Gracias !!!


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