s Mexico celebrates the (DГa de los Muertos), I\’m reminded of a visit I once made with a Swedish friend to the
in the picturesque colonial Mexican city of Guanajuato. The perfectly preserved corpses of babies and adults were brashly displayed amid neon lights, fake cobwebs, and other cheap Halloween-esque adornments. Confronted with this seeming lack of respect for the dead and vulgarity of the displays, I explained to my shocked companion that Mexicans have a peculiarly different relationship with death to other cultures. As the Nobel prize-winning Mexican writer Octavio Paz explained in his seminal work Labyrinth of Solitude: \”The Mexican. is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. True, there is as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away: he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony. \” The celebration of the Day of the Dead в which is actually a week of festivities which begin on 28 October and end with a national holiday on 2 November в is an integral part of this embracement of death that is particular to Mexican national identity. During this period, the popular belief is that the deceased have divine permission to visit friends and relatives on earth and enjoy once again the pleasures of life. To facilitate this, Mexicans visit the graves of families and friends and adorn them with brilliantly colourful flowers and offerings of food в in particular the sugary \”bread of the dead\” в spices, toys, candles, and drinks amongst other things. The period is specifically a joyous, ritualistically elaborate celebration of life, rather than a sober mourning of its passing. The origins of the Day of the Dead rest in the 16th-century fusion of the Aztecs\’ belief in death as merely one part in the wider cycle of existence, their ritual venerations and offerings to the goddess (\”Lady of the Dead\”) for deceased children and adults, and the conquering Spaniards\’ desire to accommodate these festivities within the Catholic celebrations of All Saints\’ Day and All Souls\’ Day. While contemporary observance of the Day of the Dead does include masses and prayers to saints and the dead, it is dominated by carnivalesque rituals to a far greater extent that the orthodox Catholic celebrations found in western Europe. Nevertheless, in a country as socially and geographically diverse as Mexico, there is significant regional variation in the nature of festivities: the southern state of Chiapas is far more likely to focus its efforts on processions and public commemorations of death than the valley of, where the decoration of altars in homes and tombs of the deceased is more popular.
Urbanisation, too, plays a large role in regional variations. For the south and rural areas the period holds far greater social and cultural significance than in the north and large cities; families and communities in rural areas will often spend large parts of the year preparing for the occasion. As the anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz correctly points out, in many respects this \”playful familiarity and proximity to death\”, is all the more unusual in contemporary Mexican culture because so much of Euro-American 20th century thought has been about denying death в preserving the life of the citizen at all costs. The existence of this peculiarly Mexican attitude is born of three major themes in Mexican history. First is the Aztec heritage of the pre-Columbian concept of life and death as part of a broader cycle of existence, which fused with the Christian veneration of the deceased on All Souls\’ Day into a wholly unique concept of death. Second, is the violent and tumultuous nature of Mexico\’s past; the brutality of the Spanish conquest where the indigenous population of central Mexico was decimated over the course of the 16th century; the humiliating subjugation at the hands of its North American neighbour; and the bloodbath of the Mexican revolution. These upheavals made it impossible to ignore the commonplace reality of unnatural death in Mexico. And thirdly, the appropriation (or reappropriation from their Mesoamerican heritage, as many saw it) of \”death\” by Mexican intellectuals post-revolution in the early 20th century meant direct confrontation with the mortality of life became ingrained in the national psyche. As the artist Diego Rivera said in 1920: \”If you look around my studio, you will see Deaths everywhere, Deaths of every size and colour. \” Learning how to cope with mortality has always been a central preoccupation of human existence. The celebrations of the Day of the Dead provide an insight into how the Mexicans do it. Day of the Dead (known asP Da de MuertosP in Spanish) is celebrated in Mexico between October 31st and November 2nd.
On this holiday, Mexicans remember and honor their deceased loved ones. It s not a gloomy or morbid occasion, rather it is a festive and colorful holiday celebrating the lives of those who have passed on. Mexicans visit cemeteries, decorate the graves and spend time there,Pin the presence of their deceased friends and family members. They also make (called ofrendas ) in their homes to welcome the spirits. Because of its importance as a defining aspect of and the unique aspects of thePcelebration which have been passed down through generations, Mexico s indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead was recognized by UNESCO as part of the of humanity in 2008. In Pre-Hispanic times, the dead were buried close to family homes (often in a tomb underneath the central patio of the house) and there was great emphasis on maintaining ties with deceased ancestors, who were believed to continue to exist on a different plane. With the arrival of the Spaniards and Catholicism, All Souls and All Saints Day practices were incorporated into Pre-Hispanic beliefs and customs and the holiday came to be celebrated as we know it today. The belief behind Day of the Dead practices is that spirits return to the world of the living for one day of the year to be with their families. It is said that the spirits of babies and children who have died (called angelitos, little angels ) arrive on October 31st at midnight, spend an entire day with their families and then leave. Adults come the following day. LearnPmore about the. The spirits are greeted with offerings of and things that they enjoyed when they were alive. These are laid out on anP in the family home. It is believed that the spirits consume the essence and the aroma of the foods that are offered. When the spirits depart, the living consumes the food and share it with their family, friends, and neighbors. P Other items that are placed on the altar include, often with the person s name inscribed on the top, pan de Muertos, a special bread that is made especially for the season, and cempasuchil (marigolds) which bloom at this time of year and lend a special fragrance to the altar. See Da de los Muertos altars. In ancient times, people were buried close to their family homes and there was no need to have separate grave decorations and home altars, these were together in one place.
Now that the dead are buried away from their homes, with the idea that the dead return there first. In some villages, flower petals are laid in paths from the cemetery to the home so that the spirits will be able to find their way. In some communities, it is customary to spend the whole night in the cemetery, and people make a party of it, having a picnic supper, playing music, talking and drinking through the night. Da de los Muertos and Halloween have some common features, but they are distinct holidays. They both come from early cultures beliefs about death that later mixed with Christianity. They are both based on the idea that the spirits return at that time of year. Customs around Halloween seem to stem from the idea that the spirits were malevolent (children were disguised so that they wouldn t be harmed), whereas in Day of the Dead festivities, the spirits are joyfully welcomed as family members that one hasn t seen in a year. Da de los Muertos continues to change, and a mixing of cultures and customs continues to occur. Halloween festivities are becoming more prevalent in Mexico: masks and costumes are sold in the markets alongside sugar skulls and pan de Muertos, costume contests are held along with altar contests in schools, and some children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating ( pedir Muertos ). This holiday is an excellent time to visit Mexico. Not only will you be able to witness these special celebrations, but you can also enjoy other advantages of. Although families celebrate this holiday privately, there are many public displays that you can enjoy, and if you act respectfully, no one will mind your presence in the cemeteries and other public spaces where Mexicans celebrate and honor their deceased. Day of the Dead is celebrated in different ways in different locations throughout Mexico. Festivities tend to be more colorful in the southern region, particularly in the states of Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. In rural areas, celebrations are mostly solemn whereas in bigger cities they are sometimes irreverent. There are a few destinations that are well-known for their Da de los Muertos observances. See our list of the best. If you can t make it to Mexico, you can still celebrate the holiday by Pto honor your loved ones who have passed on.