Dias de Los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday for remembering the lives of family members and pets who have passed.
The English translation of Dias de Los Muertos is Day of the Dead and it is celebrated after Halloween, from November 1–2. Families remember and honor their loved ones with special ofrendas (altars) with their relatives’ photos, favorite foods, and sugar candy skulls (calaveras).
The Role of Animals in Day of the Dead
Animals play an important role in many Mexican traditions, including Dias de Los Muertos. Alebrijes are represented in Mexican folk art as vibrant, fantastical creatures that often resemble dragons, lizards and other mystical creatures. In the animated Disney film about Day of the Dead, Coco, alebrijes are “spirit animals” that guide the spirits of ancestors on their journey. The two main spirit guides in the movie are, of course, a dog and cat—in the shape of a beautiful and vibrant flying jaguar.
Similar to Pet Remembrance Day in September, this November holiday is another excellent time to get together with friends and family to remember the furry loved ones that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
How to Celebrate Day of the Dead for Pets
Here are three ways to celebrate this colorful tradition with your pets in mind.
- Create an ofrenda
Set up an altar in your home from November 1–2 with photos of your pet, their favorite toy, leash, and, of course, their favorite treats and food. Invite family and friends to come over and remember your pet with their favorite stories.
- Attend a Dias de Los Muertos event
Take your pet(s), if possible, to a local Day of the Dead event or create your own celebration within your community. If your pet will allow it, get dressed up for the occasion and turn your dog or cat into your own alebrije.
- Add a new furry family member
While you can never replace your pet, adopting or rescuing a new one can help fill a void in your heart. When the time is right, adding a new furry family member may be a wonderful way to honor your pet. Not only do you give an animal in need a forever home, but you also get to start a journey with a new best friend right around the holidays. And, as a pet owner, you know how beautiful life can be with a pet by your side!
Day of the Dead might sound morbid, but this is a beloved tradition in Mexico and across South America, a beautiful way to remember the lives of our relatives and pets that have passed. If you are celebrating Dias de Los Muertos, please share photos of your special offering tables or of your pet dressed as calaveras and alebrijes on our Facebook page.
For Pet Families Seeking Grief Support
If you are currently experiencing the loss of a pet and need someone to talk to, there are several nationwide and local grief support hotlines you can call day or night.