(WHTM) – The Day of the Dead (el Día de los Muertos) is a sacred Mexican holiday where it is believed that spirits from those who have died can visit with their living relatives.

Unlike some believe, it is not strictly celebrated on Oct. 31, but instead is honored from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. The actual Day of the Dead is Nov. 2.

What happens on Day of the Dead

At midnight on Oct. 31, Heaven releases the souls of children who have died to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On Nov. 2, adults who have passed on get to rejoin their families. During that time, living family members do a lot to celebrate those who are with them spiritually.

How is it celebrated?

The Day of the Dead is a special party to which everyone, even those who are no longer alive, is invited. To honor the special deceased guest, living family members place the dead’s favorite foods and other offerings at their gravesite and/or on the ofrendas that they have made at home.

According to History.com, Ofrendas feature pictures of loved ones who are gone and are generally decorated with candles, marigolds called cempasuchil, and red cock’s combs.

History of el Día de los Muertos

the holiday has its origins 3,000 years ago and stems from how the Aztecs and Nahua people honored the dead in Mesoamerica. According to History.com, it was believed that a person would go to the Land of the Dead, Chicunamictlán.

The person would work through nine difficult levels, which would take years, to make it to Mictlán, which was the final resting place.

The Nahaua rituals, which were usually done in August, involved leaving food, water, and tools to help the dead as they worked to reach Mictlán. This was the basis for people leaving food and other offerings on graves and offrendas.

During the Day of the Dead, many fake skeletons and skulls that are dressed in colorful attire and accessories are on display.

Often, people will wear skull masks and eat candy that has been made into the shape of a skull.

The iconic Day of the Dead calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) come from 20th-century printer and cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada, according to History.com. Posada was making a statement about how Mexicans were adopting European culture and fashion instead of honoring their own heritage.

Posada’s most famous work, La Calavera Catrina, or Elegant Skull, is of a skeleton with makeup and fancy clothing. This 1910 piece is what inspired many of the common Day of The Dead decorations that are sold in stores.

Pop Culture

Today, the Day of the Dead is celebrated primarily in Mexico, but throughout South America and in the United States by those of Mexican heritage. Today, there are many parades for the Day of The Dead throughout America.

The Day of the Dead was also highlighted in the popular Disney and Pixar movie Coco where a young living boy travels to the Land of the Dead.

Traditional Foods

According to Cozymeal, pan de Muertos is the most popular Day of The Dead food. It is a loaf that is sweet and fluffy and topped with sugar and bone-shaped decorations. This is eaten by those celebrating and left for those who are deceased and will be visiting.

Mole Negro is another popular Day of The Dead food. It tastes of burnt chiles and chocolate and many other ingredients. It takes a long time to make the sauce and involves lots of ingredients. The recipe is usually passed down through generations.

Other common foods for the holiday include tamales, red pozole, which is a stew, a spicy tortilla soup called Sopa Azteca and Chapulines, or roasted grasshoppers.