It’s the month of Halloween, which means it’s time to talk about the festival that’s in equal parts breathtaking and bone-chilling: Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Día de los Muertos has been a tradition in southern and central parts of the nation since before Spanish colonization, with possible origins in an Aztec festival. The festival has now crossed the country’s borders and even seeped into other cultures worldwide.

On October 31st every year, private altars called ofrendas are built across Mexico, and people honour the deceased with sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts, along with old possessions of the dead. The intent behind this is to encourage visits by souls of departed friends and family, and to communicate with them on some level. The day is a public holiday in Mexico, and people dress up in beautiful costumes and masks, taking to the streets in parades or converging at large altars.

Take a look at some of these stunning pictures from the festival.

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