As you’re probably aware, Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a very special tradition for people in Mexico. But few people are aware of what it all means, and particularly, of the role a traditional drink such as tequila plays in the celebration.
You see, at the core of the whole tradition lies one very special element: the altar de muertos, or ofrenda, a colorfully decorated surface where a bunch of offerings are placed in order to honor the dead and symbolically invite them back home to their family, if only for the day. It’s a truly lovely custom meant to celebrate and commemorate the deceased rather than mourn their passing. And tequila is a central part of the ofrenda, one which you can find on practically every altar throughout Mexico.
The magic of tequila during Day of the Dead
No celebration would be complete without a loving toast. So, an altar wouldn’t be complete without drinks. This is an ever-present feature in Mexican traditions: families tend to gather and celebrate all kinds of festivities all year round with traditional drinks. And there’s nothing more traditional than tequila—practically the national beverage at the centre of a whole culture.
Tequila is found in all sorts of celebrations. Weddings, birthdays—even funerals feature it. Its growing presence over the last few centuries and its widespread popularity have embedded it deep into Mexican culture, and as such it has increasingly become essential in most festivities. So, how could it not likewise be central during Day of the Dead? It is certainly not uncommon to find it as a centerpiece offering in many altars, particularly if the deceased enjoyed it in life (which most did).
The purpose of the whole festivity is to get the family together once more, if only symbolically, and to hold a shot of tequila up in the air for a special toast does just that. It’s a beautiful thing to see and experience: the music, the laughs, the loving and tender spirit with which families gather around the altar to smile and, above all, to remember.
The altar de muertos
Ofrendas usually have several levels, each featuring items with different symbolic meanings. Papel picado, flor de cempazuchitl, and calaveritas are all rather common, almost universal offerings in an altar, but, as you may well know, the middle level is where the magic really happens.
This is the tier dedicated to making the dead feel welcome and comfortable. This is where food and drinks are the key element. Mole, candies, pan dulce and pan de muerto are all important, but tequila is ultimately essential. Generally, which items are found in the ofrenda depends on whether the deceased loved them or not—so tequila’s central role during Day of the Dead, though magical, is hardly surprising. Just remember: as a celebration, both for the dead as for the living, a celebratory toast around the altar ties everything together.
So, now you know. During this next Day of the Dead, don’t forget to set at least a shot of tequila on your altar. Your deceased will surely appreciate it.
You can celebrate Day of The Dead and give a toast to those loved ones who have passed away, with a José Cuervo Tradicional Day of the Dead limited edition bottle, in its reposado or tradicional version.
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