Day of the Dead is an occasion to pray for these departed people in purgatory.
Many Mexicans also trace their celebrations back to ancient Mesoamerican cultures.
Parents of deceased children commonly leave offerings of toys on the Day of the Innocents.
Small offerings of alcohol are sometimes left for adults.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl.
In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.
Private altars are built as focal points for small, private religious observances.
Small parties, or wakes, can be held in conjunction with the holidays.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Catholics believe that the deceased do not always enter directly into heaven or hell upon their death, but instead may enter into purgatory, a sort of holding space, where they are cleansed of their sins before they can enter heaven.
People who die in a state of mortal sin go directly to hell, by virtue of their choice, while those who die without sin may go directly to heaven.
Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is a series of commemorative days dedicated to those who have died. This is a solemn occasion, with few actual festivities.
2, and coincides with the Catholic holy days of All Saints (Nov. Families often come together over this period and preparations can be made during the entire year leading up to the Day of the Dead.