What drinks are drunk on Day of the Dead?

Answered by Robert Golston

The Day of the Dead is a vibrant and festive celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico, where people honor and remember their departed loved ones. As part of the festivities, various drinks are consumed to symbolize the connection between the living and the dead. These drinks include , , , and .

In Oaxaca, it is quite common to see bottles of beer placed on the altars and gravesites of the deceased during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Beer, with its effervescence and refreshing qualities, is believed to attract and welcome the back to the earthly realm. It serves as a way to quench their thirst and provide a familiar and comforting taste for the departed.

Soda, particularly popular brands like Coca-Cola, is also often included in the offerings to the deceased. The sweet and fizzy nature of soda is thought to be enticing to the spirits, as it represents a treat or indulgence that they may have enjoyed in their earthly life. It adds a touch of nostalgia and familiarity to the celebration, reminding the spirits of their past pleasures.

Juice, especially fruit juices, are another common drink consumed during the Day of the Dead. These juices symbolize the abundance of nature and the vitality of life. They are often made from local fruits such as oranges, limes, or pineapple, adding a burst of freshness and flavor to the festivities. Juices are seen as a way to nourish and invigorate the spirits, ensuring their well-being in the afterlife.

One of the most significant drinks associated with the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca is mezcal. Mezcal is a traditional Mexican spirit made from the agave plant, similar to but with a distinct smoky flavor. It is deeply ingrained in Oaxacan culture and plays a role in almost all milestones, rituals, and holidays, including the Day of the Dead.

Mezcal is often offered to the departed as a way to honor their memory and share a symbolic drink with them. It is believed to have a transformative quality, helping the spirits transition between worlds and providing a connection between the living and the dead. Mezcal is typically served in small clay cups called “copitas” and is often accompanied by slices of orange and sal de gusano (worm salt) for a unique and traditional taste experience.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to witness and participate in Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca. The vibrant colors, elaborate altars, and the aroma of mezcal in the air create a truly enchanting atmosphere. I have seen families gather around the gravesites of their loved ones, sharing stories, laughter, and raising their in a toast to honor their memory.

The drinks consumed during the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, hold deep cultural and symbolic significance. Beer, soda, juice, and mezcal are all offered to the departed as a way to entice them back to the earthly realm and honor their memory. These drinks not only provide nourishment and refreshment but also serve as a means to strengthen the connection between the living and the dead during this meaningful celebration.