The Day of the Dead

The passionate and festive holiday in Mexico City: The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is celebrated from 28th October to the 2nd November. During this period, people believe that those who have passed away will visit them and will wish to celebrate life once again. This day allows the people who have lost their lives to live again by addressing the intimate connections between the living and dead. It is a loving ritual, full of joy and remembrance. They were assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness and so they commemorate the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities. It is a way of retaining connections with the unseen world — a world we will all visit one day.

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, they believed one should not mourn when people pass. Instead, the Aztecs welcomed the return of spirits to the land of the living once a year. There are a plethora of things which symbolise the holiday, especially the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear everywhere: in sweets, as parade masks, and as vibrant dolls. The most famous of these being the lady elegantly dressed in sophisticated French couture from the turn of the century; she’s a skeleton, a perfect representation for the day. Catrina was the name given to this skeleton figure now popularised in Mexican Day of the Dead folkloric art. 

In homes, people create  altars  to honour their deceased loved ones. In some places it is common to allow guests to enter the house to view the altar. In graveyards, families clean the graves of their cherished ones, which they then decorate with flowers, photos, and candles. They also hold a kind of picnic at the graveside where they interact socially among themselves and with other families and community members who are all gathered at the cemetery while listening to hired musicians play. In the public sphere, Day of the Dead celebrations can also take the form of street parties, parades, and festivals. Friends and family members exchange gifts consisting of sugar skeletons or other items with a death related iconography. On this day in Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with decorations of flowers, candy, skeletons, skulls and parades, representing the vitality of life and individual personality.

Mexicans have a peculiarly different relationship with death to other cultures. While it might sound somewhat morbid, Mexicans react to death with mourning along with happiness and joy. The Day of the Dead fearlessly recognises death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On this unique day, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share happy festivities with their loved ones. The rituals used to celebrate the vivid day are varied and colourful. Yet, all carry the same message; celebrating the day of the dead is a true celebration of life.


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