Día de los Muertos

The Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is celebrated from midnight on October 31 until November 2.

On November 1 (All Saints Day), deceased children (“angelitos”) are celebrated; on November 2, (All Souls Day) deceased adults are celebrated. In order to make the holiday appear  to “more Christian”, Day of the Dead combines both days and all deceased family members are celebrated. The idea is that the spirits return on this one day of the year to be together with their families. Festivities take place in cities and villages throughout Mexico, though each location may have different customs and ways of honoring their dead. Many years ago, relatives used to be buried close to families or sometimes, in a tomb, located under the family home.

After cleaning the house and setting up an altar in one’s home, offrendas or offerings are displayed on the altar and offered to the ancestors. It is believed that the deceased relatives consume the food by its essence or aroma.

By far, the most popular offering is the sugar skull. These skulls are made into a sugar mixture and then pressed into a skull shape and then dried and iced with frosting. Although they are edible, most sugar skulls are used for decoration only. Sugar skull art is very popular in Mexico. The name of the celebrated deceased is written on the sugar skull and then placed on the altar.

Pan de muertos  or bread of the dead is also placed on the altar as an offrenda. It is a sweet, soft bread often decorated with pieces of dough shaped likes bones. These bones represent the dead loved ones and there is also a tear-shaped piece of dough baked on the bread. The bread is often flavored with anise seeds or orange flower water.

Marigolds are in bloom in Mexico at this time of year and are also placed on the altar.

Although at first glance Halloween and Day of the Dead seem similar and both are rooted from early cultural beliefs about death and Christianity, unlike Halloween, the Day of the Dead celebrants don’t view the spirits as malevolent; they welcome and celebrate them. Day of the Dead is not at all scary. It is joyous, loud and especially colorful!

 

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19 in 1911. This event, which included rallies and organized meetings, was a huge success in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The March 19 date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. The promise gave hope for equality but it was a promise that he failed to keep. The International Women’s Day date was moved to March 8 in 1913.

In Russia, this holiday emerged as a political celebration to symbolize the fight of women from all over the world for their rights, full equality with men, democracy and peace. As the time passed, the political motives of the holiday moved to the background and March 8th simply became a women’s holiday in Russia and other republics of the former USSR.

Festa della Donna (Women’s Day Festival), is celebrated March 8 all over Italy. On this day, men bring flowers to the women in their lives. Many cafes and restaurants have special meals and there are often small local festivals or concerts. Some museums and sites offer free or reduced admission for women.

In the Ukraine, March 8 is celebrated as the holiday of women, spring and love. It is an official day off for both men and women, which was originally introduced by the Communists. Currently, Ukrainian men congratulate their women by giving them flowers, presents and doing the housework by themselves.

In France, in order to celebrate the holidays, Air France designated an all female crew to fly from Paris to Washington. With two pilots and 22 attendants, Air France says that this will be “the largest exclusively female crew in its history.”

In India, over 100 women marched in the capital, New Delhi, calling on the government to do more to protect them.

In South Africa, hundreds of drummers played with the message that violence against women should stop.

Many amazing things happened for women this year. Women in the U.S. won the right to serve on the front lines in combat, the number of women who die in childbirth declined by 50% and the President inched closer to demanding equal pay for men and women. However, according to a current study, 1 in 3 women in the world will be raped in her lifetime and violence against women is still the norm in many countries.

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