In Mexico the Day
of the Dead is a holiday that tends to be a subject of fascination
for visitors from abroad. On November 2 family members gather
at the cemetery for gravesite reunions more festive than somber.
Some bring along picnic baskets, bottles of tequila for toasting
the departed or even a mariachi band to lead a heartfelt sing-along,
cleaning and perhaps painting the headstones, arranging flowers,
especially flowers of the dead and lighting candles.From mid-October
through the first week of November, markets and shops all over
Mexico are replete with the special accouterments for the Dia
de los Muertos.
all manner of skeletons and other macabre toys; intricate tissue
paper cut-outs called papel picado; elaborate wreaths
and crosses decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and
votive lights; and fresh seasonal flowers, particularly . Local
merchants set up provisional stands outside the cemetery gates
to sell food and drinks.
Octavio Paz observes that, undaunted by death, the Mexican has
no qualms about getting up close and personal
with death, noting that he "...chases after it, mocks it,
courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite plaything
and his most lasting love." Her face is unforgettable and
she goes by many names: La Calaca, la Huesuda --Bony,.
A fixture in Mexican society, she's not some trendy fashion model,
but La Muerte--Death. Another occasion that brings a multitude
of visitors and surprising festivity to the local cemetery is
May 10, Mother's Day.
de Los Muertos the skeleton represents the dead playfully
mimicking the living and is not a macabre symbol at all. Preparation
begins weeks in advance when statues, candies, breads and other
items to please the departed are sold in markets. A sweet bread,
pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones of
the deceased is very popular as are sugar skulls. These offerings
may later be given away or consumed by the living after their
essence has been enjoyed by the dead.
aspects of these annual rituals, but linking them instead to
the observance of All Saints Day, November 1, and All
Souls Day, November 2, was a factor that helped early Spanish
missionaries successfully bring about the conversion of Mexico's
indigenous people to the Christian religion. It is precisely
this synthesis of old and new worlds customs that makes Dia
de los Muertos so intriguing.
After all, the
customs for the Days of the Dead: November 1 - Dia de los Angelitos
(Children's Day); November 2 - Dia de los Difuntos (All
Souls Day), in Mexico are a composite of rituals and symbols
from Inca, Aztec, Maya, and even Toltec, as well as a few Chrstian
ones thrown in for good measure. Undoubtedly the practices of
the Aztec dead feast day (Miccailhuitl) influences today's rites.
They believed that the souls of the dead return each year to
visit with their living relatives - to eat, drink and be merry.
Just like they did when they were living. Death's morbid side is buried under music and remembrances, while
skeletons laugh and dance and sing as Mexico celebrates life
in its embrace of death.
surprisingly, as Mexican society has modernized, long-held customs
have begun to fall by the wayside, particularly among urbanites.
But the rapid encroachment of U.S. culture, intensified since
the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement, seems to
have spurred many citizens to actively pursue the preservation
of Mexican traditions.
While each October
the country's supermarket shelves are now crammed with plastic
pumpkins, witches' hats and rubber masks, government and private
institutions have recently increased promotion of commemorative
altars displayed in museums, educational centers and other public
Source link: Mexico's
Days of the Dead