The Day Of The Dead or Da de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated on NovemberP2 every year. Even though the festival is called the Day Of The Dead, it is truly a celebration of life as it reinforces the idea that life is short and young children should not fear death. Children learn that there is a circle of life when they eat sugar skulls and dance with the caricatures of death and begin to respect that life is brief. The days of the dead are celebrated from October 31 to November 2 as these are all days honouring those who have died. Day Of The Dead is a syncretic religious holiday, celebrated throughout Mexico, combining the death veneration rituals of the ancient Aztec culture with the Catholic practice (Picture: Getty Images)
Some believe that on the Day Of The Dead, the souls of the departed return to earth to visit with and provide counsel to their families and loved ones. November 2 is set aside in Mexican tradition to honour those souls who have passed. On the Day Of The Dead people will visit gravesites and the graves are cleaned up,Pweeds are pulled, debris is sweptPaway and the grave is decorated with flowers. Day Of The Dead Parade, Mexico City (Picture: Hannah Berry George) People will set up altars in their homes to commemorate those they have lost, the altar will be decorated with flowers, candles, ceramic skulls and pictures of their deceased loved ones.
There will be a party in many graveyards as so many people flock to honour their loved ones at their burial ground. They will also place food on the altar, maybe their loved ones favourite food and treats. Day Of The Dead Parade, Mexico City (Picture: Hannah Berry George) Drinks are traditionally placed on the altar to quench the thirst of the dead for their long journeyPhome. The ritual of the Day Of The Dead was started by the Aztecs some 3,000 years ago and when the Spanish arrived they simply could not quash the tradition. The idea of the Day Of The Dead survived and thrived as its rituals merged with elements of Christianity. Originally, Pthe Day Of The Dead was celebrated in the summertime but it moved to the beginningPof November to coincidePwith All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Mexicos Day of the Dead festival was recognised by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2008. MORE: MORE: 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.