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Bring the fright of voodoo magic into your Halloween soiree by celebrating the Day of the Dead. Bright colors, skeletons (especially sugar skulls), and skull-like face paintings bring this carnival-esque Halloween party theme to life. Want more inspiration? See how Day of the Dead is celebrated in New Orleans.

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Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is one of the most famous Mexican celebrations. Every year, from October 30 and November 2, families reconnect with the departed by building altars in their honor and offering their favorite food and drinks to entice deceased loved ones to come back for a visit.

From the traditional to the whimsical, these 8 Day of the Dead recipes are the perfect way to capture the culinary spirit of the holiday.

 

  • The most universally recognized Day of the Dead dish is Pan de Muerto -- an eggy bread made with anise or orange-blossom water. You’ll find the bread as an offering on most altars, with the top of the loaf molded to resemble bones. Our tip: Finish the top with a swipe of orange juice and a dusting of sugar for an extra burst of flavor.

     
  • Calabaza en Tacha, more commonly known as Candied Pumpkin, is a traditional Mexican recipe of calabaza (a large winter squash that resembles a pumpkin) cooked in brown sugar cane syrup. This recipe likely originated in pre-colonial Mexico, when the native Tarascans, who lived in the northwestern state of Michoacán, sweetened pumpkins with honey. Now the dish is prepared especially for the Day of the Dead -- its strong, sweet aroma is said to lure the souls of the deceased back for the night.

 

  • Sugar skulls, or calavera de azucar, are commonly used to decorate the altars. Families make and paint them in honor of the departed soul (they sometimes bear the names of the deceased). For the Aztecs skulls were a positive symbol, associated with rebirth. To make them, you’ll need a skull mold -- we find the one-dimensional versions, like this one, easier to work with. Avoid making sugar skulls on rainy or humid days, as they may not set properly.

     
  • In Mexico, chocolate has been called the “drink of the Gods” and was given to the soldiers to provide strength. Champurrado -- a chocolate drink thickened with masa or corn flour -- is also very popular during Día de Los Muertos. For a twist, try adding cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla.

You may also be interested in the below video.

  • In pre-Columbian times, pulque, a beverage made from the sap of the agave plant was reserved for special spiritual ceremonies. Today, most people toast to the departed with tequila. Try this festive tequila cocktail with blackberries and basil.
     
  • Labor-intensive mole sauces are also classic Day of the Dead and other holiday fare. For something seasonally inspired, this recipe for roast pumpkin with Mexican green mole balances the typical mole spice with sweet, fragrant squash, common in other Day of the Dead dishes. If you’re feeling ambitious, make an authentic mole poblano -- the widely recognized version made with cocoa -- which might seem daunting but the final result is worth the extra effort.

     
  • Tamales have been standard fiesta food since pre-Hispanic times, when they were considered gifts from the Gods. Given their portable nature, they make perfect ofrendas, or offerings, to place at altars. While tamales come in endless forms (from bean to beef, round to rectangular), these chicken tamales in green salsa are a classic.

     
  • A modern Day of the Dead celebration calls for new interpretations of classic offerings. These Insta-worthy skull cookies are visually stunning and invite you to flex your creativity and inner-artist.

 

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