Mexico's Dia de la Muertos - A History

31st October 2018
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Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an important annual event in Mexico and it is one with a rich history. This spiritual ritual dates back around 3,000 years and now takes place over November 1st and 2nd each year.

Instead of mourning the loss of loved ones, Dia de los Muertos sees people celebrating the lives of those they miss and this is done in various ways, one of which is taking a meal to the gravesite of a deceased loved one for them to enjoy. The flavours of the food brought is thought to decrease in strength and to lose nutritional value because the spirits of those who have passed absorb them when they return to receive the offering.

Altars are adorned with brightly coloured marigold flowers and other ornaments that show death is not something to be afraid of. Sugar skulls – small candies piped with intricate icing – are eaten over the two days as a way to say that death is not something that consumes us because we have the power to consume it.


A typical food made during the ritual is pan de muerto, a type of bread infused with aniseed and orange, which features in offerings left for departed loved ones. Make it yourself using the following recipe:


  • 4 ounces butter (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (white)
  • 3 teaspoons aniseed (whole)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups flour (white bread or all-purpose, divided)
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (not to exceed 110 F)
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets instant dry yeast


  1. Combine butter, aniseed, 1/2 cup of flour, salt and sugar until they come together.
  2. Whisk together eggs, orange zest and water in a separate bowl and add this to the previous ingredients.
  3. Add in yeast along with another 1/2 cup of flour, and once mixed together continue to add in the rest of the flour until a dough forms.
  4. Knead the dough for around one minute on a floured surface and then leave to rise for 1hr 30mins.
  5. Cut of 1/4 of the dough to form bone shapes, which will be draped across the loaf.
  6. Shape the rest of the dough into a round, position your bone shapes over the top and then leave to rise for a further hour.
  7. Bake at 350f for around 30-40 minutes (check throughout the cooking process).
  8. Brush with an orange glaze once the loaf has cooled and then serve.

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