by TJ Marie
Mexican three day celebration of the dead October 31-November 2
El Dia de Muertos
El Dia de Muertos or the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival is a three day celebration starting on October 31 which is The Day of the Dead, November 1 is All Saints Day, and November 2 is All Souls Day.
The Aztec Festival of the Dead was originally a two month celebration which the fall harvest was celebrated and figures of death were honoured. The festival was presided by Mictecacihuatl, Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld. In the pre-Columbian belief system, this Goddess was known for having a peaceful realm where souls rested until the days of visiting the living. Participants place offerings for the dead in front of homemade altars, including special foods, traditional flowers, candles, photographs, and other offerings.
This holiday starts by the Mexican families cleaning the graves of their relatives. The graves are decorated with pine needles and flowers. An altar is erected near the grave site. Different kinds of foods, like beans, chilies, salt, tortillas, meat, fruit, and sometimes alcohol are placed nearby. People speak to the departed souls and offer them food. This is their way of assuring the dead that they are loved by their relatives.
Altars are often decorated with flowers, whose brief life span is a reminder of the importance of life and whose; bright earthly colours are believed to be a guide for the dead to come back to their loved ones. Brightly coloured tissue and intricately cut tissue paper decorates the altar. Offerings of sweets, fruits, and other foods are joined with bread, salt, and water. Grooming supplies, such as a washbasin and soap, may be provided for the spirits to tidy themselves up after their long journey. Personal possessions of deceased relatives are placed upon the altar. Finally, the well-known calaveras that take their place on the altar are representations of skeletons participating in the activities of the living, like cooking, dancing, or even playing in mariachi bands. This somewhat lighthearted treatment of death is characteristic of the remaining Pre-Columbian spirit of this celebration.
Sugar skulls are made during this celebration for children to exchange among themselves. These sugar skulls stand for the gifts for the departed young souls of children in the family. It is believes the souls of children will return to earth in the late afternoon on October 31. Other skull dishes prepared are, chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and white chocolate skeletons. Another tradition is the Pan de Muertos or bread of the dead which families gather together to remember the departed souls. Then, they share the bread among themselves as a unity of love. People also prepare Calabaza en Tacha or candied pumpkin, by using cinnamon and brown sugar. It is custom to light bonfires, hang lanterns in trees, set off firecrackers and in some parts of Mexico, people create a path of flowers. It is believed by doing all this they are leading the departed souls home.