Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, dates back nearly 3,000 years ago, to the Aztecs in Central America. The Mexican holiday, which honors and remembers the dead, was originally celebrated in the summer, but after a few hundred years and some mixing of Spanish Catholicism, it now takes place in the fall.
This year, the holiday falls on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
In the Bay Area, community Day of the Dead celebrations are becoming more popular including the annual Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oakland, which is put on by the Unity Council. Organizers say the outdoor festival regularly attracts more than 60,000 people to downtown Fruitvale. This year's festival -- held on Sunday, Oct. 29 -- was the 22nd and included traditional Aztec dancing, live music, more than 100 Latin American vendors and 30 altars designed by local artists.
A large part of Dia de los Muertos includes building altars, or ofrendas, to loved ones who have died. They’re filled with items that are thought to help guide spirits back home like attractive and fragrant yellow and orange marigolds. Copal and salvia incense is also often burned.
And of course, favorite foods of the dead, like avocados and apples, are laid out along with brightly colored sugar skulls, calaveras figurines, candles and photos of the deceased fill out the rest of traditional altars.