Mexicans traditionally eat pan de muerto on El Dia de Los Muertos, also called Day of the Dead, to honor the memory of deceased loved ones. Mexicans consider eating pan de muerto, also called bread of the dead, a classic tradition, much like candy canes on Christmas and candy on Halloween. All Mexicans consume pan de muerto on Day of the Dead, although bread recipes, shapes and decorations vary among regions, communities and families.
Traditionally, Day of the Dead falls during the last days of October or first few days of November. Mexicans spend days, even weeks, preparing for the annual celebration. They prepare pan de muerto ahead of time, along with other traditional dishes. This bread typically resembles the shape of a human skull. It comes shaped like a round dome, layered with thick strips of dough on top to form the shape of bones. Mexicans apply glaze, made from orange and eggs, to the top of the rounded bread. They sprinkle sugar on top, and sometimes add spices like anise seed and cinnamon. Some relatives decorate skulls with icing and designs. On the Day of the Dead, families eat pan de muerto near grave sites of loved ones, as well as at community celebrations and festivals. To show respect for dead loved ones, relatives place portions of bread on grave altars to nourish deceased loved ones.