In Mexico, Monarch butterflies are beginning to arrive this week in their over-wintering sites as people prepare for Day of the Dead celebrations.
Celebrations for Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, officially start November 1 and end November 2, the actual Day of the Dead. However, this popular Mexican holiday can start as early as Halloween. The festival honors the lives of deceased ancestors and coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day–Catholic holidays dedicated to honoring the saints of the church and those who have died, but who have not yet gone to heaven, respectively.
Day of the Dead is not about being scared of the supernatural, but rather about remembering the spirits of their loved ones.
Rather than dressing in all black and mourning the passing of loved ones, Día De Los Muertos becomes a colorful and vibrant national remembrance of the lives of deceased relatives and friends.
While most people who recognize the international holiday decorate their homes and gravesites of their ancestors with altars, relics, candles, foods, and drinks favored by the deceased; many cities will join in on the festivities by hosting parades, community-wide ceremonies, and street parties.
In Michoacán, Mexico, Día de los Muertos, takes on an even more interesting aspect. According to traditional belief among Michoacán’s Mazahuas indigenous community, Monarch butterflies are souls of ancestors who return to Earth for their annual visit.
The video below, “Muerte Es Vida” (Death is Life), follows a family from Michoacán’s Mazahuas indigenous community as they celebrate Day of the Dead. Native peoples explain how the Monarch butterflies always return a few days before the celebrations begin. Children were taught to set out water to welcome the butterflies because they were tired and thirsty from their travels.
Whether you live in Mexico or elsewhere, you can join in the Day of the Dead celebration by sharing these stories with your children and grandchildren and by downloading the Day of the Dead Activity Guide: