Day of the dead in Mexico
Mexico is famous for its enchanting archaeological sites, splendid nature and unique architecture. But the essence is in people: Mixing the indigenous with the Spaniards has led to a society that is now bonded with different influences and contradictions.
According to Wikipedia the holiday is called Día de Los Muertos in Anglophone countries, a back-translation of its original name, Día de Muertos. Originally, the Day of the Dead as such was not celebrated in northern Mexico, where it was unknown until the 20th century because its indigenous people had different traditions. The people and the church rejected it as a day related to syncretizing pagan elements with Catholic Christianity. They held the traditional ‘All Saints’ Day’ in the same way as other Christians in the world. There was a limited Mesoamerican influence in this region, and relatively few indigenous inhabitants from the regions of Southern Mexico, where the holiday was celebrated. In the early 21st century in northern Mexico, Día de Muertos is observed because the Mexican government made it a national holiday based on educational policies from the 1960s; it has introduced this holiday as a unifying national tradition based on indigenous traditions.
The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is similar to other societies’ observances of a time to honor the dead.
According to the belief of ancient Mexican civilizations, when one dies, his spirit continues to live in Miktlan – part of the residence of souls who have left the world.
Generous gods have created this ideal home, which has nothing scary, but on the contrary, it is serene. There the souls are pleasantly resting until the day they return to their old homes. During their visit, although they are not visible, their relatives can feel them. There are two important dates, according to the calendar, that the dead people return to celebrate. Pain has no place on these holy days. The splendid hospitality of the Mexicans, expressed in the slightest way, is non-negotiable. They have to welcome and enjoy them with what they like, such as food. You can find a lot of information about the day of the dead, in this book with the title “The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico“.
Each region and every village has different customs and ideas about this celebration. But for all Mexicans, there is the same purpose: to welcome and host their dead guests and to talk to them for two days. Preparations begin on the evening of October 31st when the gates open to the dead to come, involving not only relatives or those who have lost a loved person but also schoolchildren, it is essentially a great celebration of death.
People make altars out of their homes, in the cemeteries, on the graves of their dead, even the students in the schools where they place their offers, “offrendas”. Offers are usually food, sweets, favorite items, and even blankets, not only to thank them but also because they are convinced they actually use them.
November 1st or All Saints Day is dedicated to the dead children. They prepare bids with flowers and white candles. White symbolizes the purity of their innocent souls. Offers are adorned with colorful toys so that when their souls arrive they can play as they did when they were alive.
At Lake Patzcuaro and the surrounding villages, ceremonies and traditions are deeply emotional and last 24 hours. Travelers from all over the country arrive here to greet their dead once more. November 2 is the Day of the Souls or the Feast of the Dead. This is a great celebration and a public holiday for the whole country. Dedicated to the dead ancestors, friends, and relatives, it is celebrated with honor and at the same time, it has a character of bliss.
Morelia celebrates with its own customs and religious ceremonies which, as they peak afternoon, create a sense of surrealist scenery, cut off from the most imaginative reality. Dulces Morelianos traditional desserts decorate houses, graves, markets … Skeletons of various materials and joyfully decorations appear everywhere… The Catrinas have their honor.
In the treats of the day, the “Calaveras” has been celebrated, in the shape of a skull, a coffin or skeleton, and the famous “bread of the dead” flowers, known as “flowers of death”, to exorcise the evil. This folk tradition has its origins about 3000 years ago, in the Aztec era, celebrating their ninth calendar month (in the modern calendar this month corresponds to August) in honor of the deity of Miccailhuitontli, meaning “Lady of the Dead” or otherwise Catrina.
Similar celebrations take place in other cultures, Brazil, Europe, Asian and African cultures.