Celebrate a Joyful Brief Reunion of the Living and the Dead During Día de los Muertos

Avatar photo Posted on Oct 24, 2023 by Visit Emporia

The October “spooky factor” is celebrated across multiple cultures in a myriad of ways. Here in Emporia, a showcase event is our annual Día de Los Muertos festival. Most everyone knows that Día de Los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead. But how much do you really know about the holiday?

El día de Los Muertos is generally celebrated on November 1 and 2, entwined with the Christian remembrances of Hallowtide (which encompasses All Saints’ Eve, or Halloween, on October 31; All Saints’ Day on November 1; and All Souls’ Day on November 2). Día de los Muertos is widely celebrated in Mexico, where it developed, as well as farther afield by those of Mexican heritage.

These days of remembrance are observed as a joyful brief reunion of the living and the dead, a time during which families welcome back the souls of deceased relatives. Families create ofrendas–offerings–to honor loved ones who have passed. Altars and small shrines are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photographs of the departed, candles, papel picado (cut tissue-paper designs), and favorite foods and drinks of the person being honored in memoriam.

Emporia’s own Día de Los Muertos festival will be held on Saturday, October 28, 2023. A partnership between Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow (H.O.T.T.) and Emporia Main Street, the day-long event kicks off with a parade down Commercial Street at 10:30 a.m. After the parade, take part in the Downtown Trick or Treat and Costume Contest and join the celebration in the 800 and 900 blocks of Commercial, which will be filled to bursting with food trucks, vendors, music, dancing, and more. The street festival includes traditional Latin music, food, and Día de Los Muertos merchandise. Proceeds from this event go to educational funds benefiting the local Hispanic community in the form of college scholarships. 

Day of the Dead originated in the rituals practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, dating to more than 3,000 years ago. Then as now, death is recognized as an integral part of life. El día de Los Muertos is a time of reverence when the living and the dead can meet, honoring the perpetual mystical cycle of life and death in a joyful celebration. Family and friends gather to pay their respects and remember loved ones who have died.

The Día de Los Muertos celebration is not centered only on those who have departed. It’s also common to give gifts, like candy sugar skulls–calaveras–to friends; share traditional pan de muerto sweet bread decorated with bread-dough bones or skulls or teardrops; and write funny or irreverent mock epitaphs in verse, dedicated to friends and acquaintances, called calaveras literarias.  

On Friday, October 27, Emporia Public Library (110 E. Sixth Ave.) hosts an all-day event (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) for participants to make their own Dia de Los Muertos mask. The come-and-go event is free and open to the public.

As with many holidays, food plays a big role in Día de los Muertos festivities. Aside from the delectable traditional pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead), you’ll likely find the ubiquitous but nonetheless delicious tamale in a starring role. Mole negro is a complex and deeply flavored sauce that marries the flavors of dark chocolate and blackened chiles. Although pozole is eaten year-round, the special spicy red chile variety of this savory stew of meat, hominy, and spices is particular to Día de los Muertos feasts.

Speaking of food, every day is a good day to partake of the many tempting offerings at Emporia’s Latin eateries. From Casa Ramos at 402 Merchant St. and El Lorito at 2144 US Hwy 50 to Taqueria El Marmol at 23 E. Sixth Ave., Mi Chavelita Mexican Grill at 1120 Commercial St., and Taqueria Agaves at 915 Commercial St., and The Daily Station, 312 W. South Avenue. no matter which ones you choose, your taste buds will thank you!

Important symbols related to Día de los Muertos include water left in a pitcher so spirits can quench their thirst. Papel picado–traditional paper banners–represent the wind, while the earth is represented by food, especially the traditional pan de muerto. Candles are often arranged in the form of a cross, representing the cardinal directions, to help spirits find their way.  

Honoring loved ones includes honoring our Mother Earth. Here at Visit Emporia, we do our best to conserve the natural resources with which we are blessed. While you’re visiting us, we hope you’ll also take time to learn more about our Visit Emporia Pledge, which encourages everyone to be good stewards of our community and environment during your time here with us. 

  1. Stay golden.

2. Leave no trace.

3. Respect the land and its people.

Find out how YOU can take the Visit Emporia Pledge here.

Visit Emporia is the official Visitor Information Center for Emporia offering brochures and maps of Emporia, surrounding areas, and the state of Kansas. Drop in to visit us at 719 Commercial St., in downtown Emporia. We’re open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See the Visit Emporia website for more information or check us out on Facebook, and Instagram for more activities and events.

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Visit Emporia

Visit Emporia welcomes travelers and meeting planners, and serves as the visitor information center for Emporia, Kansas and surrounding area.



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