This just in: El Día de los Muertos is actually not the Mexican version of Halloween. While the two share some traditions, like elaborate costumes and skeletons, Día de los Muertos has nothing to do with the October 31 holiday. Halloween is full of dark traditions of mischief and fright; contrastingly, Día de los Muertos is “an explosion of color and life-affirming joy.” Literally translated to mean “The Day of the Dead,” this holiday is celebrated November 1-2. So it is easy to see how a holiday so close to Halloween with overlapping traditions could cause some confusion. To clear up the matter, we have rounded up some facts you may not have known about Day of the Dead. The more you know and understand, the more you will be able to appreciate and partake.
While the literal name of the holiday would lead you to expect events centered around mourning those that have passed away, Día de los Muertos allows loved ones to celebrate the lives of those lost. Celebrations include music, dancing, food, laughter and lots of color – all to represent and manifest life! There is actually a belief that the deceased’s souls come back to join in the celebration with their friends and families.
Altars, called ofrendas (offerings), are built to welcome back the soul of a lost loved one. Personally decorated with photos, memorabilia, and belongings of the person who passed away, the dedicated space is a “welcome back” after a long journey. Typical ofrendas contain four elements: earth (through flowers, typically marigolds), wind (through decorative paper banners), fire (through candles), and water.
After a long journey back from the beyond, a soul can get quite hungry, according to traditional Mexican belief. Families usually present the souls of their loved one elaborate foods that include the deceased’s favorite meals, sweet bread, sugar skulls, and drinks.
What’s with the skulls?
Skulls are a traditional and very visible part of Día de los Muertos celebrations. Calavera, which means skull in Spanish, became a type of literary device to describe a short, sometimes sarcastic, poem that poked fun at those still living. It became tradition to read these poems at Day of the Dead celebrations. To accompany the poems, artists began to sketch elaborate skeletons dressed up in fancy garb. The symbol is still alive and has become the largest visible symbol of the holiday today.
Día de los Muertos is a tradition of spirit of culture. Rather than a mournful celebration, the belief that death is part of the cycle of life eliminates a fear of dying. The annual reunion with the souls of loved ones offers reason for dancing and celebration, rather than mourning. Steeped in Mexican tradition and culture, celabra la vida with Modelo this Día de los Muertos. Modelo can help you bring your celebration to life through traditional food and drink of Mexico.
The Day of the Dead is a time to eat, drink and enjoy life. These recipes are a great way to enrich your Día de los Muertos celebration.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 hours
- 5 lbs. skinless, bone-in pork shoulder (braising meat on the bone adds flavor, but you can go with boneless, just check the meat on the lower end of the cooking time if you do)
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 jalapeno, chopped (if you don’t like a lot of spice, remove the ribs and seeds)
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1 large orange
- 1 bottle Negra Modelo
- 1 tbsp Bicentennial Seasoning (or spice rub of your choice)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For Guacamole: Combine all ingredients together in a bowl, mashing with a fork to mix.
- 2 avocados, sliced in half, pitted, and diced in the shell
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, finely diced (remove the seeds and the ribs if you don’t want a lot of heat)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
- Juice of one lime
- salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Rinse and dry your pork shoulder and rub the salt and pepper into the meat. Combine the rub ingredients and rub all over the shoulder.
Step 2: Place the shoulder in the slowcooker and top with the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, the juice of the orange, and the bottle of Negra Modelo beer.
Step 3: Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 6 hours.
Step 4: The meat is ready when tender and falling off the bone. Remove the shoulder from the slowcooker and shred it with two forks.
Step 5: Skim and discard any fat that is floating on the surface of the cooking liquid. If you have more than 2 cups of liquid remaining, reduce it either in the slow cooker or in a saucepan and set aside.
Step 6: Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a well-seasoned pan (well-seasoned cast iron skillet preferred) over high heat. Place the shredded pork in a single layer in the pan and press down on the meat to develop a golden crust.
Step 7: Pour over the cooking juices and serve immediately. Top with toppings of choice.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
For the marinade:
- 12 ounces of Modelo Especial
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbps cumin
- 1 tbps chili powder
- ½ tbsp paprika
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the meal:
- 1.5 – 2 pound flank steak
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- Flour or Corn tortillas
- Queso Fresco
- Sour Cream
- Fresh Cilantro and Lime
Step 1: In a dish, mix together ingredients for the marinade, until combined. Pour half of the marinade into a separate dish (or divide the marinade and pour into two large food storage bags).
Step 2: In one dish or bag, place the flank steak. In the second dish or bag, place all the veggies. Cover the dishes or seal the bags and place in the fridge for at least two hours.
Step 3: Heat the grill to medium high heat, and grill steak and veggies until desired temperature.
Step 4: Let the meat rest for about five minutes and then slice.
Step 5: Serve on tortillas with all of the fixings and enjoy with an ice cold Modelo!