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!

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