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