The Glossary

El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican celebration. Here are some of the words & phrases used for the event.
  • Alabanza ~ praise; more specifically, a Catholic hymn of praise.
  • Alfeñique de Dia de los Muertos ~ sweets made of sugar, typically in the shape of sugar skulls.
  • Atole ~ a gruel sweetened and flavored with crushed fruits and sugar, and thickened with masa. Flavorings can vary.
  • Calavera ~ candied skulls, usually made of sugar or chocolate, although rarely eaten; also satirical verses and/or obituaries.
  • Cempasúchil ~ orange-yellow marigold flower, favored for decorations. Spelling varies.
  • Cielo ~ the sky, or heaven. Represented by a piece of fabric or plastic draped overhead, above the table (ofrenda).
  • Copal ~ resin from tropical trees, used to make varnishes. Burning as incense dates back to Pre-Hispanic times.
  • Dia de los Muertos ~ Day of the Dead. Also spelled "dias", which is "days" (Days of the Dead).
  • Dia de los Difuntos ~ Also used for Day of the Dead.
  • Dulce de Calabaza ~ candied pumpkin.
  • Hojaldras ~ sweet bread.
  • La Catrina is a female skeleton with the chapeau and dress of the 19th century grande dame and everywhere represents death which can catch you anywhere and anytime.
  • La Noche de Duelo ~ the beginning of the Day of the Dead, with a candlelight procession to the cemetery. Literally, "The Night of The Mourning".
  • Los Angelitos ~ children who have died & are now remembered on the All Saints' Day feast. Literally, "little angels".
  • Los Niños Limbos ~ literally "children in limbo". Infants who have died before being baptized.
  • Ofrenda ~ "The offering", the table or area decorated to hold the offerings (food, beverage, candies, etc.) for the spirits.
  • Ollas ~ pottery made for cooking.
  • Tapete de Arena ~ sculptures or "carpets" made from dyed sawdust, sand, multicolored seeds, flower petals and powdered lime.
  • Todos Santos ~ All Saints' Day
  • Zempasúchil ~ (an indigenous) word for a special type of marigold)
  • Pan de Muerto ~ bread of the dead. A sweet, rich coffee cake decorated with meringues made to look like bones, skull-shaped candies and sweets, marzipan death figures and papier maché skeletons and skulls.

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