The Days of the Dead, Mexico ̶ Celebrating life beyond death
Los Dias de Los Muertos / Days of the Dead, Mexico 2012:
When it happens: 2nd November 2012
Where it happens: Mexico
The Days of the Dead, Mexico is a Mexican holiday celebrated all over Mexico and even in the whole world in other cultures. It is called Los Dias de los Muertos in Spanish. Focusing on gatherings of family and friends to remember deceased relatives and friends, this holiday in many parts of Mexico is divided into two parts: November 1, highlighting the remembrance of the family’s dead children; and November 2, where there are parades and street festivals.
Los Dias de los Muertos starts every 30th of October, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day. Because this is a national holiday, offices and banks are all closed. Most Mexicans are believers of the Catholic faith, so it is no surprise that the occasion coincides with the Christian holidays as well as having religious influence from Christianity.
Traditions and Offerings connected with The Days of the Dead, Mexico
Traditions involved include the building of private altars and decorations using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. Possessions of the departed are also left in the altar. Photos and memorabilia of the departed are also used. The mood doesn’t need to be morbid, however, since celebrants can discuss funny memories and stuffs regarding their deceased loved ones.
Families would clean and decorate the graves during the period and offerings known as ofrendas are included in orange Mexican marigold flowers, the traditional flower used to honor the dead. These flower are sometimes called as ‘Flor de Muerto’ which stands for ‘Flower of the Dead’ because they are thought to attract souls of the departed towards the offerings.
Dead children are called ‘los angelitos’ or “the little angels” and toys are brought to their graves. As for the adults, bottles of liquor such as tequila and jars of hot drinks called atole are offered. Trinkets or favorite candies of the deceased are also offered along with other ofrendas such as pumpkin candies, pan de muerto or “bread of the dead”, and sugar skulls.
The ofrendas are usually left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased ̶ a common custom observed by several cultures all over the world. There even some others who hold lively gatherings at the grave site of their loved ones. Many others even spend all night beside the graves of their loved ones while some even have picnics at the grave site. Days of the Dead, Mexico is truly a celebration of life transcending death.
Icon and Symbolism
The skull, or ‘calavera’ in Spanish, is the symbol and icon for The Days of the Dead, Mexico. Celebrants don masks with skulls as the design and some ofrendas are even shaped and made to look like skulls. Foods such as sugar and chocolate are also made to look like skulls and these sugar skulls can be given as gift for both the living and the dead. Pan de muerto or “bread of the dead”, a sweet egg bread, are also shaped as round skulls, decorated with white frosting.
The Days of the Dead, Mexico symbolizes the love of family, friends, and loved ones even after death. There is nothing morbid about the event since several people humorously don themselves with masks and costumes to look like skeletons. After paying respects and honoring the dead, the celebrants can now engage in lively activities.