What is Día de los Muertos?
What exactly is Día de los Muertos (aka Day of the Dead)? Here's a hint: It isn't Mexico's version of Halloween. This is a common misconception because the holiday is celebrated immediately after Halloween (Oct. 31). It’s a two-day celebration that takes place every year, starting on Nov. 1 and ending on Nov. 2—commonly known on the Catholic calendar as All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. The days are focused on remembrance and celebration in honor of those relatives who have passed away. The idea and concepts behind the traditional celebration began more than 3,000 years ago with the rituals of the Aztec, Toltec, and Nahua people. The pre-columbian mesoamerican cultures believed that mourning the dead was disrespectful and that death was the natural next step in the cycle of life. While its origins date back thousands of years, modern celebrations encompass the changes that occurred as Christian traditions began to evolve and as the Roman Catholic Church expanded in Mexico.
Día de los Muertos is marked by several key features including the following:
- Altar de Muerto: Altar that includes a display of photos and special momentos honoring the dead.
- Ofrenda: This is an offering which typically includes the items placed on the table for sharing with loved ones that have passed (this can include momentos, food items or drinks that were typically favorites of those being honored).
- Pan de muerto: Sweet and anise-scented bread commonly baked in the weeks leading up to Day of the Dead and eaten during its celebrations.
- Calaveras: Thought to symbolize departed souls, these are sugar skulls.
- Papel Picado: Traditional Mexican craft in which intricate designs and patterns are cut from colorful tissue paper and can be found decorating altars during these festivities.
- Cempasuchil: Mexican marigold flowers that have a distinct scent that is thought to help attract spirits as they make their way back home to loved ones.
Modern day Americans have become more familiar with this traditional Mexican holiday given the release of recent animated films including ‘The Book of Life’ in 2014 and ‘Coco’ in 2017. These movies have allowed for a beautiful and joyous family tradition to be shared with many throughout the world. The Day of the Dead is a beautiful and vibrant celebration intended to honor our deceased loved ones. It's celebrated with colorful, thoughtful traditions meant to keep treasured memories alive. This premise is especially important because we know many in our community have experienced loss recently. Making personal adaptations to such traditions can help in the process of grief and may lead to personal traditions to carry on memories of those whom we loved.
Get to know Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O.
Dr. Soria-Olmos is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Haslet. She was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, so Cook Children's has always had a special place in her heart. She came to know Cook Children's when she was just a kid herself. She went to the medical center a number of times with her active younger brother, who needed care following several mishaps with broken bones. The visits inspired her to decide, "I want to be a Cook Children’s doctor one day."
In pursuit of her dream, Dr. Soria-Olmos attended Texas Christian University (TCU) for a degree in biology and to fulfill the pre-medical school requirements. After graduating from TCU, she chose to stay local and attended medical school at University of North Texas Health Science Center/Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth. She completed part of her pediatric clerkship at Cook Children's, learning about pediatric medicine by attending rounds with pediatric hospitalists. It was then she knew she wanted to be a pediatrician.
She began her career with Cook Children's in 2014 as a pediatric hospitalist caring for sick children admitted to the hospital. Today, she works at Cook Children's primary care office in Haslet. Her special interests include child safety, child development and asthma.