Day of the Dead

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Tim Bottman's picture

English translation of common Day of the Dead words and phrases.

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el alfeñique

the special cooked sugar paste used to form skulls, flowers and other figures for the Día de los Muertos.

el altar de la ofrenda

the altar of the offering

elaltar de muertos

the offering prepared for the deceased

el angélito

the little angel (used to refer to the soul of a child)

el arco

the arch (sometimes placed on the grave or on the altar)

el ataúd

the coffin

el atole

the hot drink made of corn, water and fruit flavorings

la calaca en papel maché

the paper maché figure

el candelero

the candlestick

las calacas

the skeletal figures that represent death

la calavera

the skull

las Calaveras

the songs and poems written about the festival

la calavera de azúcar

the sugar skull

las caretas

the masks worn to scare off the spirits at the end of the celebration

las catrinas

the skeletons, dressed like rich women, who represent death

el cementerio

the cemetery

el cempasúchil (cempazúchil)

the Mexican marigold

el flor de muertos

the flower of the dead (another name for the cempsúchil)

el copal

the incense

la cruz

the cross

la danza de los viejitos

the dance of the old people (a humorous dance in which the dancers wear masks of old people)

el Día de los Muertos

the Day of the Dead

el Día Todos los Santos

All Saints’Day

el esqueleto

the skeleton

los dulces

the candies

las flores

the flowers

los gollettes

the doughnut-shaped breads, with pink sugar on them, that are placed on the altar

la guitarra

the guitar

la iluminación

the illumination (the ceremony in the cemetery, during which hundreds of lit candles are thought to guide the deceased souls to their altars)

los mariachis

the Mexican musicians

la mariposa

the butterfly

la máscara

the mask

el mole

the thick sauce made from chilis, sesame seeds, spices, chocolate and fruit (a food typically eaten for this holiday, as well as many other special days)

la Noche de Duelo

the night of sorrow (November 1)

las ofrendas

the offerings

el pan de los muertos

the bread of the dead

el papel picado

the paper cut-out

los serapes

the Mexican blankets

el tambor

the drum

Todos Santos

All Saints, the religious holiday that extends from October 31- November 2

la tumba

the grave