Families in Mexico celebrate the Day of the Dead( el Da de los Muertos) by inviting the spirits of their deceased loved ones back for a quick meal, drink, and celebration. The holiday, which is observed annually from October 31 through November 2, combines Mesoamerican ritual, European religion, and Spanish culture. Halloween is celebrated on October 31; All Souls Day, also known as the Day of the Dead, occurs on November 2. Tradition has it that on October 31, at midnight, the gates of heaven open, allowing children’s spirits to spend the next 24 hours with their families. On November 2, adults’ spirits can experience the same thing.
Beginnings of the Dead’s Day
The Day of the Dead has its origins in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, where it is observed today in contemporary Mexico as well as among people of Mexican descent in the United States and around the world. In what is now central Mexico, the Aztecs and other Nahua people held a cyclical view of the cosmos and believed that death was an essential, constant aspect of life.
It was thought that after passing away, someone would go to the Land of the Dead, Chicunamictlán. The person’s soul could only finally arrive at Mictlán, the final resting place, after completing nine difficult levels over a number of years. Family members provided food, water, and tools to help the deceased during the challenging journey during Nahua rituals honoring the dead, which were customarily held in August. This served as the impetus for the modern Day of the Dead custom, in which people place food or other offerings on their loved ones’ graves or place them on improvised altars inside their homes known as orrendas.
After that, a large party is being held in the cemetery. Families clean gravestones, sing songs, and converse with their ancestors while bringing a sizable feast to eat. Even grandparents who passed away before the baby was born may be introduced to the child by parents.
Also, keep the skeletons in mind. Life-size papier-mâché and tiny plastic or clay skeletons can be found everywhere on Day of the Dead. Why? On Day of the Dead, Mexicans honor their ancestors while also reminding themselves that passing away is only natural. People are reminded that they will eventually become skeletons by hanging out with them, but not for much longer.
The skeletons are depicted engaging in a variety of bizarre activities, including playing the guitar, bathing, and making tortillas. Apparently people are not the only ones who get to have fun on Day of the Dead!
All Souls Day vs. Day of the Dead
In ancient Europe, bonfires, dancing, and feasting were also used as part of paganism’s fall celebrations of the deceased. Even after the Roman Catholic Church’s rise, some of these traditions persisted. They were( unofficially) incorporated into the first two days of November, which are both observed as Catholic holidays, All Saints and All Souls Day.
On All Souls Day, people in medieval Spain would bring wine and pan de ánimas( spirit bread) to the graves of their loved ones. They would also decorate them with flowers and light candles to help the deceased souls return to their earthly homes. Such customs and a more somber outlook on death influenced by the destruction of the bubonic plague were brought to the New World by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
Although the two holidays do have some traditions in common, such as costumes and parades, El Dá de los Muertos is not, as is commonly believed, a Mexican version of Halloween. It is thought that the line separating the real world from the spirit world dissolves on the Day of the Dead. The spirits of the deceased awaken during this brief time and join their loved ones in the living world for feasting, drinking, dancing, and music. The deceased’s favorite foods and other offerings are then left at gravesites or on the ofrendas constructed in their homes by the living family members, who treat them as honored guests during their celebrations. Candles, vibrant marigolds known as cempasuchil, and red cock’s combs can all be used to decorate ofrendas, along with fruit and tortilla stacks.
Day of the Dead-themed movies
The Day of the Dead used to be primarily observed in Mexico’s more rural, indigenous regions, but it started to spread to cities in the 1980s. When UNESCO added Mexico’s “Indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead” to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008, it was in response to growing public awareness of the holiday.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 36 million people in the country identified as having partial or full Mexican ancestry as of 2016, which shows that the tradition has grown even more popular in recent years.
Mexico City held its first-ever Day of the Dead parade in 2016, drawing inspiration from the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, which featured a sizable parade. Day of the Dead parades were held in a number of significant American cities in 2017, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Fort Lauderdale. A young boy is transported to the Land of the Dead and reunited with his long-lost ancestors in the Mexican tradition known as Coco, which Disney and Pixar released in November.
Even though Day of the Dead celebrations’ specific traditions and scope are still changing, the holiday’s core has not changed in thousands of years. It’s a time to remember and celebrate those who have passed away from this world while also highlighting how natural death is for people.