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Day Of The Dead: Celebrating The Deceased
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The Day of the Dead — Día de los Muertos, in Spanish — is a Mexican tradition that now is celebrated throughout the world. The practice is rooted in indigenous believes that the dead don’t cease to exist, but simply transition from life to death. That was later merged with the Catholic faith, which the Spanish brought to the region.

It might sound grim, but the festival is intended to be a joyous time to reflect on loved ones lost, and to celebrate their lives. Typically, families and friends build small altars — ofrendas — to their loved ones, decorating them with things they loved. They prepare a feast of favorite foods to honor them.

The festivities are usually permeated by music, dance and candlelight. Now celebrated across the world, other people have woven in their own traditions, turning the Day of the Dead into a truly global holiday.

— Sarah Childress

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A miniature tomb put by a relative over the grave of a loved one at the San Jose cemetery in Mexico City's Santiago neighborhood. Nov. 1, 2011.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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A young reveller takes part in a parade called "La Calabiuza", on the eve of the Day of the Dead, in Tonacatepeque, 20 km (16 miles) north of San Salvador. Nov. 01, 2011.

(Oscar Rivera - AFP/Getty Images)
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A young girl dressed up as "La Catrina" (a symbol representing the Death or the Skull in the Mexican folk) walks in a street of Mexico City asking for money as part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Nov. 1st, 2007.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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View of the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in the outskirts of Villa Maria del Tiunfo, southern Lima. Nov. 01, 2011.

(Ernesto Benavides - AFP/Getty Images)
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Young revellers take part in a parade called "La Calabiuza" on the eve of the Day of the Dead, in Tonacatepeque, 16 miles north of San Salvador. Nov. 01, 2011.

(Oscar Rivera - AFP/Getty Images)
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A man sells flowers at the Jamaica market in Mexico City as Mexicans prepare to celebrate the traditional Day of the Dead. Oct. 31, 2011.

(Ronaldo Schemidt - AFP/Getty Images)
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A man puts flowers on the lid of a wall tomb at the General Cemetery in San Salvador, El Salvador, on the Day of the Dead. Nov. 2, 2010.

(Jose Cabezas - AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of the Viradouro samba school make a representation of the Mexico's "Day of the Dead" as they perform during the first night of Rio de Janeiro's famed carnival parades, in Brazil. Feb. 15, 2010.

(Antonio Scorza - AFP/Getty Images)
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A masked man holds a cross at La Escombrera, a dumping ground for construction materials, in Comuna 13 neighborhood, Medellin, Antioquia Department, Colombia. Nov. 2, 2010.

(Raul Arboleda - AFP/Getty Images)
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A man with a mask of a skull stands in the Zocalo square in Mexico City. Nov. 2, 2010.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity leaded by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia light candles in memory of more than forty thousands victims of violence at the "Angel Square" in Mexico City. Oct. 31, 2011. Thousands of people ramain in twenty four hours of vigil to demand a stop of the violence and remember their loved ones before the The Day of the Dead.

(Yuri Cortez - AFP/Getty Images)
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Dancers perform the traditional Andean "Scissors Dance" in front of a grave during the Day of the Dead celebrations in Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima. Nov. 1, 2011.

(Enrique Castro-Mendivil - AFP/Getty Images)
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A child dressed like a clown stands next to a grave at the San Jose cemetery in Mexico City's Santiago neighborhood. Nov. 2, 2011.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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A decorated altar is unveiled for the British Museum's Day of the Dead celebration in London, England. Oct. 29, 2009.

(Dan Kitwood - AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of the Viradouro samba school perform atop a float representing Mexico's "Day of the Dead", during the first night of Rio de Janeiro's famed carnival parades, in Brazil. Feb. 15, 2010.

(Antonio Scorza - AFP/Getty Images)
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People stand amongst graves decorated with flowers and lit candles at a cemetery in Oaxaca. Nov. 1, 2011.

(Stringer - AFP/Getty Images)
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Two musician play at the San Isidro cemetery, in Mexico City. Nov. 2, 2011.

(Ronaldo Schemidt - AFP/Getty Images)
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A man walks past masks of skulls and cempasuchil (also called flower of the dead) flowers in Mexico City. Nov. 2, 2010.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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People visit Santo Entierro cementery in Chimalhuacan, Mexico State. Nov. 1, 2010.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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The figures of two skulls are seen on top of an arch during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Zocalo square, in Mexico City. Nov. 1, 2008.

(Alfredo Estrella - AFP/Getty Images)
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It's a lovely thing when shared traditions unite so many different people.