Imagine yourself in a cemetery, commemorating your great-grandpa. Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico on November 2nd. The Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s traditional holidays reuniting and honoring beloved ancestors, family, and friends. To begin, the historical roots of this celebration date back to the pre-Hispanic cultures of Meso-America of the indigenous people, especially the Nahua (Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecas, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec) and others native to Mexico more than 3,000 years ago. Life was seen as a dream.
It was believed that only in dying, a human being was truly awake. Death was not a mysterious and fearful presence but a realistic recognizable character as much a part of life as life itself. When Christianity was introduced in the 16th century, religion and its symbols became part of the altars we now find in Mexico today. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when the spirits of the children, called “los angelitos” (little angels), are expected to return. Traditionally, it is a time when family members share memorable stories that would commemorate their lives together.
Secondly, there are many items that people do to celebrate the Day of the Dead. On November 2, family members clean and perhaps paint the headstones, arrange flowers, and lighting candles. Mexican families construct special home altars dedicated to the spirits of their deceased loved ones. The altars range from simple to the very elaborate and are usually filled with objects that provided pleasure to the departed person in life, including favorite food and drink. Altars dedicated to the spirits of deceased children often include toys, candy and other sweets.
I hink that building alters for the dead is a good concept. They teach the younger generations about the past, as well as commemorate the dead. No matter what kind of a person was, everyone leaves behind a legend. Some books, for example, are biographies, praising and telling about a person in the past or present. Like a book, the alters tell the history of a person. The alters tell a story of the dead individual. Alters tell the age, their likes, and many other interesting facts about the dead individuals life.
I think that these alters compensate the work of an earlier generation. The altars or “ofrendas” as they are called, also usually contain objects made from sugar or sugar sculpture known as “alfenique. ” These objects may be small animals, such as lambs, miniature plates of food (enchiladas with mole), small coffins, often with pop-up skeletons, and of course, the sugar skull or “calavera. ” The skulls are made by pouring a mixture of boiling water, confectioner’s sugar and lime into clay molds, which have been previously soaked in water.
The calaveras are decorated with paper foil for eyes and a kind of colored icing for air. Names can be added to the skull and Mexican children often exchange named skulls with their friends. I think that the skeleton represents the spirit still living after it has left it’s flesh on this earth. The spirit of an individual lives on forever. Ofrendas often include “papel picado” or Mexican cut-paper. Papel picado has a long folk tradition in Mexico and the little town of San Salvador Huixcolotla, in the state of Puebla, is known for its fine cut paper.
Although papel picado is used as a decoration for many festive occasions uch as weddings and baptisms, papel picado with themes relating to Day of the Dead is also very popular. The Mexican papel picado is similar to origami. Although origami is folded, it too has spiritual meaning. In conclusion, I think that Dias De Los Muertos is important for the family to maintain good relationships with the dead for it is they who intercede and bring food fortune to the living. It is a time to come to terms with our mortality and become aware of cycle of life and death. The Day of the Dead is a day for honoring are beloved ones.