Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

The Day of the Dead is considered one of the richest traditions of Mexican culture. The origin of the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico pre-dates the arrival of the Spaniards. There are records of celebrations in the Mexica, Maya, Purépecha, and Totonaca ethnic groups. The rituals that celebrate the life of our ancestors have carried out in these civilizations since pre-Columbian times. 

Day of the Dead for children (1st and 2nd of November) According to tradition, the deceased children are celebrated on November 1st, and adults are celebrated on the 2nd. However, for the Catholic Church day, 2 is for everyone, since the 1st is All Saints Day.

The Day of the Dead tradition celebrated in Mexico with the popular belief that the souls of loved ones who left us awaken from their eternal slumber to become part of the lively celebrations during the Day of the Dead. They are received in joy and laughter with offerings of their favorite fruit, food and drink, sweet calaveritas (sugar skulls) and, if it applies, toys for the children. Offerings and pictures are placed in decorated altars (called ofrendas) in family homes. It’s believed that the spirits consume the essence and aroma of the foods that are offered. At the end of the celebrations, the living consumes the food and shares it with loved ones. 

An essential part of this tradition involves visiting cemeteries to clean and decorate (adult graves are marked with orange marigolds, white orchids are left at children’s graves.) Either during the day or night loved ones place candles on graves as a way to illuminate the path of souls on their return home.

Something inevitable at each dinner and offering is the delicious bread of the dead. There are different styles and forms. The most popular is round, covered in white or red sugar, with stripes that simulate bones. The Aztecs devoted a whole month to this important celebration, which began at the beginning of August, but with the arrival of the Spaniards and the Hispanic traditions, the dates definitely changed. The Aztec culture believed life on earth to be something of an illusion and death was a positive step forward into a higher level of consciousness.

For the Aztecs, skulls were a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth. This is why people wear traditional skull masks. A tradition that has evolved into painting faces to look like skulls and adding marigold flowers as part of the designs. Flowers are symbolically important. The most closely associated with Dia de los Muertos is the marigold, or cempazúchitl, which is known as the flower of the dead. In Aztec belief, the marigold was sacred to Mictlantecuhtli, the god of the dead.


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