How to celebrate like the dead

How to celebrate like the dead

During the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico and other countries within Central and South America, there’s an emphasis on the sumptuous and the sensual. Drinks offerings, incense and candles are all provided for the dead. Drinks are placed on makeshift altars, to quench the dead’s thirst before the long journey home and meats, bread and desserts are enthusiastically consumed. Gustatory and lavish, here’s what the Day of the Dead can teach us about not only death but a good party, too. 

1. Make sure you get into the celebratory spirit

Down mezcal, eat sweet delicacies, mourn – loudly and with gusto. Don’t overdo it, though. Always drink responsibly and respectfully to the dead.

2. Make a tequila offering

Traditionally, the dead during the Day of the Dead celebrations are liable to a shot of alcohol. Yet, it may be that their position affords them a more durable constitution. So, here’s the key additional ingredients you may want to chuck in. Remember to give the concoction a good shake.

To add to your tequila offering:

  • Agave nectar
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Coconut cream

3. Start cooking

The dead are also invited to their own feast. Here’s a quick look at the delicacies you’ll find at a Day of the Dead celebration.

Pan de muerto

In Mexico at the end of October, people begin to prepare pan de muerto, or, bread of the dead. These loaves are a puffed, sugar-dusted, orange-flavoured bread. The bread is then offered up to the dead or eaten whilst visiting their grave. Round in shape, and sweet to taste, the bread should also have decorative bone-shaped accompaniments (made also of bread, of course.) The bread bones are laid out in a circle shape, too, to represent the circle of life. 


If you’ve devoured the bread, a Day of the Dead celebration also wouldn’t be complete without tamales. An ancient food stuff that’s been going for centuries, they were a staple of the Aztec and Mayan traditions. So, if you want to add some much needed civilisation to your party then go for this pork dish. Essentially, tamales is corn husks stuffed with very tender pork. To die for.

4. Take a trip to the florist

Your Day of the Dead celebration also needs some colour. An abundance of it. Head down to the nearest florist or Tesco Express and bulk buy marigolds and irises. Wear them, throw them or decorate every surface with them, then lay them by the graves of your loved ones.

5. Wind down with a hot drink

It is also customary to share a chocolate drink with the dead. Atole is a masa-based drink, using corn starch to make the hot cocoa thick and almost syrupy. This hot, chocolate-y corn drink will see you through the worst of the tequila and the best of the late night memories of those who’ve died.

Now you know how to celebrate like the dead according to Central American custom, you can begin to create your own celebrations to and with the dead.

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