Feliz dia de los muertos: Happy death day!!!!

I myself thought it a little weird the first time I heard of the day of the dead or El Dia de los Muertos. It is a Mexican celebration, where the dead are thought to be among us, so we celebrate their presence, and influence they may have had on us in life. The dead are honoured with offerings on an altar.

This tradition originated with the Aztecs,  who made offerings to the god Mictlantecuchtli, the deity of the dead, and it was celebrated around this time on the Gregorian calendar, which is the one we use today, as oppose to the Aztec calendar. When the Europeans thought it their calling to re-“educate” the indigenous people, the tradition did not die, but was simply merged with its christian equivalent, All Saint’s or All Souls day.

The Aztec calendar

The mounting of the altar begins from the 31st October, and children are supposed to be the first spirits who visit. The offerings last until the 2nd or sometimes 3rd November. The offerings represent the elements of earth, fire, air and water, and may also include toiletries, so the spirit can wash up after their journey, pictures of the dead ones, and things they may have enjoyed in life, like sweets, cigarettes, tequila. Colourful paper cutouts called Papel Picado add a festive air to the altar, and crosses, flowers and wreaths are also used as decoration. Candles (normally homemade ones filled with love and sweetness as is the tradition) are left for the spirits to light their way. Food, water, fruit and incense are also left for the travellers and are symbolic of the elements.

Some important symbols in El dia de los muertos:

  • Calaveras: These are sugar candies made in the shape of skulls for the occasion. Calaveras, or panteones in this case, also refer to traditional poems that are written about living people that speak of things that you would not normally say about this person. It is intended to be humourous.
  • Marigolds: The traditional flower of death in Mexico.
  • Pan de Muerto: A sweet bread made to resemble bones.
  • Arches: This is an old tradition that is dying. Arches made with bamboo and flowers were more popular in the past. The arch represents the doorway between this world and the spirit world.

Papel Picado

NB: Purple is the colour of mourning in Mexico and must be included in the celebrations.

My source: Mexico Conocido magazine[spanish]: http://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/haz-tu-propia-ofrenda-de-dia-de-muertos.html


~ by louella001 on October 29, 2011.

3 Responses to “Feliz dia de los muertos: Happy death day!!!!”

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