Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Take this short quiz about Día de Muertos and find out if you're a true catrina or a struggling-to-keep-aflame vela.
1. Candles light the way for the dead. What is a candle called in Spanish?
Answer: a. vela
Velas welcome the spirits back to their grave. And by the way, in Spanish, answer d. llama in Spanish means both the animal from the Andes and a candle flame.
2. Altars traditionally have seven levels. What is an altar called in Spanish?
Answer: b. ofrenda
The ofrenda's seven levels each symbolize an important element for spirits of the dead to arrive and enjoy their time with the family for Día de Muertos.
3. Monarch butterflies play an important role in Día de Muertos ceremonies. A butterfly in Spanish is called what?
Answer: d. mariposa
A monarch butterfly is a mariposa monarca. Easy to remember, right?
4. Monarchs migrate from the eastern U.S. and Canada to which Mexican state?
a. Baja California Sur
Answer: c. Michoacan
The monarchs somehow know exactly where to migrate to each year, baffling scientists as to how and why. They overwinter in the central Mexican state of Michoacan for four to five months until they make their way back north again.
5. The arrival of monarch butterflies in late October signals what?
a. Deceased loved ones leaving the earth
b. Deceased loved ones coming back to visit
c. Loved ones about to pass away
d. Deceased loved ones without a place to go
Answer: b. Deceased loved ones coming back to visit
The monarchs symbolize the spirits of loved ones heading back home to their families on time each year.
6. A sugar skull can be made of sugar or clay. What it is called in Spanish?
Answer: c. calavera
Adding calaveras to an ofrenda dates back to the Meso-American tradition of displaying skulls on racks after battle.
The skulls were of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, who would assure a safe passage into the land he ruled.
7. Día de Muertos and Halloween are the same holiday. True or false?
Día de Muertos is not associated with Halloween. Historians believe that the ancient Aztec festivals celebrated death.
But the Día de Muertos celebration that we know now was not actually popularized until the 20th century.
In Mexico, it became more commonly known thanks to President Lázaro Cárdena's nationalistic policies during his presidency from 1934 to 1940.
8. Día de Muertos is celebrated over two days. True or false?
The days are Nov. 1 for children and Nov. 2 for adults. This corresponds to All Saints Day and All Souls Day in Catholicism.
9. The Aztecs created the catrina during their ceremonies of the dead. True or false?
Illustrator José Guadalupe Posada Aguilar created the catrina in his satirical newspaper comics at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mocking Mexico's elite during the Mexican Revolution, from 1910 until Posada Aguilar died in 1913, he portrayed richly dressed women as skeletons, called La Catrina.
This was to remind them that everyone dies no matter how much money they have in life.
10. Día de Muertos is only celebrated in Mexico. True or false?
Several countries in Latin America celebrate Día de Muertos.
For instance, in Lima, Peru, families from the Andes visit the graves of loved ones and eat bread called tantawawa in the shape of a doll.
Many customs actually originated from Spain thanks to the conquistadors who came to Latin America in the 16th century.
On All Souls Day, people in medieval Spain would bring wine and pan de ánimas, spirit bread, to the graves of their loved ones.
They would also cover graves with flowers and light candles to illuminate the dead souls’ way back to their homes on Earth.
Time for the big reveal. How many did you get right?
10 correct - Catrina
You're a catrina through and through. The good kind of catrina, of course.
7-9 correct - Mariposa Monarca
You know how to fly through you the Día de Muertos knowledge. You deserve a delicious pan de muerto for your efforts.
4-6 correct - Calavera
You're trying your best. You may be made of clay now, but soon you'll be a true sugar skull.
0-3 correct - Vela
You're a llama (flame) that's struggling to stay lit until you learn more about Día de Muertos!
Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru for six years. As a certified Spanish and English instructor with nearly 20 years of teaching experience, she's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.