Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, is an important part of Southern California culture. Growing up I would see sugar skulls in Mexican bakeries and gift shops. I always found them fascinating. It wasn't until high school that I began to grasp the significance of the holiday.
The indigenous people of Mexico have been honoring the dead for over 3,000 years. Original it was an Aztec practice that was celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, approximately the month of August. Festivities were presided over by Mictecacihuatl, the goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead." Death was viewed as the continuation of life. To them life was a dream and only in death did they become fully awake.
Over 500 years ago the Spanish Conquistadors tried to remove the practice from the local culture. Needless to say, old habits die hard and they were fighting a losing battle. So they decided to compromise and move the celebration to All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day, Nov. 1 & 2.
Today the tradition is celebrated by many cultures here in Southern California. Altars at set up in art galleries and gift shops. Street parades featuring costumes and giant puppets are not uncommon. But let's not forget that it is a day to remember those whom we have loved who are no longer with us.