El Día de Los Angelitos in Mexico us tied to Mexico’s most famous holiday tradition—and my personal favorite—Day of the Dead.
Unlike American Halloween, which focuses on one night of doom, gloom, and gore, the Day of the Dead celebrates life, while also accepting the reality of death and providing the hope of a continued communion with our loved ones even after death.
We know the first day of the celebration as el día del los angelitos, and it provides a special time to remember loved ones who passed away as children.
What Happens on the Day of the Little Angels or Día de los Angelitos in Mexico?
At midnight on October 31, the souls of the departed begin making their way back to their families for a visit. The first souls to arrive are the little children, called Los Angelitos or Los Inocentes.
The candles and offerings set up on special altars guide home The little children’s souls who find their loved ones and spend all day November 1 visiting with them. On the following day, the souls of adult loved ones arrive.
The Day of the Dead celebration traces its roots back to the beliefs of Mexico’s most famous indigenous people, the Aztecs. In their day, families spent an entire month celebrating and honoring their dead.
The festivities included a special feast in honor of deceased children, who they believed had gone to one of the many Aztec heavens where a tree fed them with milk. Following the Conquista, this Aztec celebration got compressed into the two-day affair we have now.
What You Need to Celebrate El Día de Los Angelitos at Home
In Mexico and in the US, Hispanic-American families celebrate el día de los angelitos by visiting cemeteries to tidy and decorate their loved ones’ graves.
Often, many families get together for a candlelit procession to the cemetery on the night before the day of the little angels, and in some cities the display becomes truly magical. The best example is Arizona where the Day of the Dead is highly celebrated. Tucson’s “All Souls Procession,” is a wonderful display that is a favorite from 1990. The procession includes prayer and the entire walk to the cemetery.
Families also set up their own altars at home to welcome the spirits of their loved ones and celebrate their lives. If you would like to celebrate at home with your own altar, be sure to include the following elements:
• Candles: The candles serve to light the way to the altar so that the angelitos can find their homes.
• Water: Ideally this should be holy water, which will help the soul travel the path to eternity.
• Incense: In Mexico, copal incense burns on Day of the Dead altars, a tradition with both Aztec and Catholic origins.
• Sugar Skulls: These represent the members of the family, so each sugar skull should have someone’s name on it. You can make them or buy them.
• Marigolds: The scent of marigolds also helps guide the dead to the altar. Traditionally, people pluck out the petals to decorate the altar, sometimes creating a path of petals leading to the altar if there is room.
• Food & Drink: The angelitos will need some refreshment after their long journey, so put out some of their favorite foods. You would see foods like mole, tamales, and oranges on a Mexican family’s altar. Adult spirits like tequila, but for child spirits milk or water would be more appropriate.
• Salt: Some spirits may not be able to taste the food offerings, so give them salt instead.
• Toys: When the angelitos come visiting, you want to have their favorite toys or else items representing their favorite activities on the altar for them to enjoy.
• Photos: Photos of the lost loved ones help the living to remember and honor them.
With these elements you are ready to celebrate your Día de Los Angelitos here like a Día de los Angelitos in Mexico.
It is very important to share the roots and history of the Day of the Dead with your children as they can misinterpret its true meaning of reverence for the departed ones as well as the different view Hispanic-Americans can have of death.
It is fun to make your altar. In my article Day of the Dead Altar you can find all the elements necessary to make a truly beautiful one. Making a beautiful celebration en familia with your little ones is easy. They will always remember it and own it as part of their Hispanic culture.
This is one of the best holidays to have fun Hispanic style. Crafts, decorations and traditions all come alive during El Dia de los Muertos!
I started celebrating this holiday after my son was born. Honestly, I want to keep him close to his Latino roots.
Then, many people started asking me about this holiday, so I created this 65-page Dia de los Muertos skull coloring and sugar skull making guide.
- It includes a complete background of the holiday, and a separate section for the meaning of calacas and skulls in Day of the Dead and their purpose in the altars.
- This is not only for teachers! I created this eBook because I knew many moms like me, love to create projects at home like we do. This is for parents and teachers (complete lesson plans for children K+).
- This is my favorite part of the book: 26 UNIQUE Day of the Dead black and white friendly printable skull designs that you won’t find anywhere. They are standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper, but you can print them ANY size you want!
- Step-by-step guide of how-to make sugar skulls WITH original pictures and tips to follow the process easily.
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