A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton), and foods such as chocolate or sugar skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls can be given as gifts to both the living and the dead.
Top 10 things to know about the Day of the Dead (nationalgeographic.com)
Calacas are clothed, decorated and colorful skeleton figurines that you’ve undoubtedly seen but never known the name for.
*La Calavera Catrina. Even though this custom more or less only applies to Mexico City — although other locations will probably hold their own, albeit less grand, version—it is worth a mention. Each year, hundreds of people dress up as Catrinas and descend on the zócalo to take part in the Catrina parade. Attendees paint their faces in the typical style of the Catrina skull, complete with colorful accents around the eyes and cheeks, and dress in outfits appropriate for the occasion.
The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal, often varying from town to town.
Day of the Dead is not the “Mexican Halloween” like it is sometimes mistaken to be because of the timing of the year. The two holidays originated with similar afterlife beliefs but are very different in modern day. Halloween began as a Celtic Festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts but has recently turned into a tradition of costume wearing and trick-or-treating. Decorating your house with spiders and bats and wearing scary costumes is not done in most parts of Mexico.