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Mexican Culture

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead)

The Dead as part of Life in the Mexican Culture

The Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is one of the most important celebrations in Mexico, on this day traditionally in Mexico, the dead are remembered. The Dead is ever present and a part of Life. Specially noticeable is that during the time around the Día de Muertos, when the “Calaveras” (skeletons made in papermache or sugar) are seen in every day situations, and the streets and stores are decorated, the celebration takes place from November 1st. to the 2nd.

The Día de Muertos is not a sad event, but a colourful folk fest celebrating the dead. In the people’s belief the souls of the departed return once more to the family during this day. During this day, thought for the dead are in the foreground. The streets are decorated, and flowers, death symbols, skeletons and skulls in the most diverse of ways, are placed in the windows; overall the most seen figure is that of the ”Calavera Catrina”.

Afterwards, at night on November 1st. the souls of the departed are welcomed home, and people gather in the cemeteries and graves to welcome them. The people bring with them “ofrendas” (offerings) which consist of meals and drinks the departed liked, as well as candles, flowers and music. Spending the night there, and saying goodbye till next year on the Día de Muertos.

Día de Muertos (Tag der Toten)

This celebration occurs on November 2nd, in connection to the Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members that have died. The tradition include building altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, candles, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased; as well as visiting their graves with these gifts, and usually spending the night by the grave.

The Day of the Dead is a time for celebration. The celebration has its origins in an Aztec festival, where after festivals and parades, people gathered at cementeries to pray for their dead loved ones. The skulls symbolized death and rebirth. The celebration where dedicated to the goddess known as the ‘Lady of the Dead’, corresponding to the modern ”Catrina”. The belief behind is that people go to the cementerie to build this altars, to encourage visits by the souls of the departed. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. The marigolds are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. The offerings are called Ofrendas. As part of the celebration, people write short poems called calaveras (skulls), mocking epitaphs of friends, or describing annecdotes.

A common symbol of the holiday is the ”Calavera (skull), Calacas (skeleton) and Catrina”. Sugar skulls with the name of the recipient on the forehead are gifted during this time.