Imagine yourself in a cemetery commemorating your great-grandpa. Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico on November 2nd.
The Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s traditional holidays that reunites and honors beloved ancestors, family, and friends. The historical roots of this celebration date back to the pre-Hispanic cultures of Meso-America, particularly the Nahua (Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecas, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec), and other indigenous people of Mexico more than 3,000 years ago. They believed that life was a dream and that only in death could a human being truly awaken.
Death was not a mysterious and fearful presence but a realistic and recognizable character, as much a part of life as life itself. When Christianity was introduced in the 16th century, religion and its symbols became part of the altars we now find in Mexico today. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when the spirits of the children, called los angelitos” (little angels), are expected to return. Traditionally, it is a time when family members share memorable stories that commemorate their lives together. Secondly, there are many items that people do to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
On November 2, family members clean, paint the headstones, arrange flowers, and light candles. Mexican families construct special home altars dedicated to the spirits of their deceased loved ones. The altars range from simple to very elaborate and are usually filled with objects that provided pleasure to the departed person in life, including their favorite food and drink. Altars dedicated to the spirits of deceased children often include toys, candy, and other sweets. I think that building altars for the dead is a good concept. They teach the younger generations about the past and commemorate the dead.
No matter what kind of person one was, everyone leaves behind a legend. Some books, for example, are biographies that praise and tell about a person in the past or present. Similarly, alters tell the history of a person by sharing a story” of the deceased individual. Alters reveal the age, likes, and other interesting facts about the dead individual’s life. I believe that these alters compensate for the work of an earlier generation.
The altars, or ofrendas,” also contain objects made from sugar, such as sugar sculptures known as “alfenique.” These sculptures can be small animals, miniature plates of food (such as enchiladas with mole), small coffins (often with pop-up skeletons), and sugar skulls, or “calaveras.” To make the skulls, a mixture of boiling water, confectioner’s sugar, and lime is poured into clay molds that have been soaked in water. The calaveras are decorated with paper foil for eyes and colored icing for hair.
Names can be added to the skull. Mexican children often exchange named skulls with their friends. I think that the skeleton represents the spirit still living after it has left its flesh on this earth. The spirit of an individual lives on forever. Ofrendas often include papel picado” or Mexican cut-paper. Papel picado has a long folk tradition in Mexico, and the little town of San Salvador Huixcolotla in the state of Puebla is known for its fine cut paper.
Although papel picado is used as a decoration for many festive occasions, such as weddings and baptisms, papel picado with themes relating to Day of the Dead is also very popular. The Mexican papel picado is similar to origami, although origami is folded, it too has spiritual meaning. In conclusion, I think that Dias De Los Muertos is important for the family to maintain good relationships with the dead, for it is they who intercede and bring food fortune to the living. It is a time to come to terms with our mortality and become aware of the cycle of life and death.
The Day of the Dead is a day for honoring our beloved ones.