Day of the Dead or Día de Los Muertos – Celebrating death by honoring the deceased


Celebrating Día de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is part of the Mexican culture started in the early 1500s by the Spanish invaders. The event has elements of the ancient Aztec custom of All Souls Day. Every year, Mexicans celebrate the event on November 1 and 2 by treating the holidays as a family reunion to honor the deceased ancestors. The two-day holiday is a particular time for reuniting the living and dead when the departed come back to be with the family. Celebrating the Day of the Dead takes a happy and sporting look at death, which is a grim and sad event for most of us. The brightly colored skeletons and skulls scattered during the two days of celebration are signs of happiness that underline the occasion. 

Calaveras –the icons of celebration

Calaveras or skulls are iconic symbols in various funny forms during the celebrations. The skulls are of various shapes and colors and often display a smile as if to scorn death that makes us forget its somber image. To maintain the festive touch of the occasion, the skulls in the form of sugar candies are trendy. Other skulls have clay decorations; the most memorable are face paintings. The brightly colored and decorated skulls are on display on the table containing the offerings presented to the loved ones. Calaveras are handmade skulls made from clay or sugar and are ubiquitous elements of celebrations.

 La Catrina – The Lady of Death

La Catrina is another iconic figure that has become an emblem of the Day of the Dead celebrations. One of the most recognizable figures, La Catrina, is a towering female skeleton decorated with vibrant makeup and a flashy feathery hat that creates a stunning look. In ancient times, the Aztecs worshipped Le Catrina, who guided the departed loved ones through the final stages of their cycles of life and death besides protecting them. The modern-day La Catrina became popular in the 1900s as it appeared in a mural depicting the Mexican history of 400 years.

Skulls and skeletons hold center stage during the celebrations. Everywhere you would see skeletons made from plastic, paper mache, and clay in all sizes, from life-sized to miniatures.

 Sharing a meal with the dead

The offerings to the deceased loved ones are central to the celebrations as it’s a way of paying homage to them. Families honor the members who are no more by sharing a meal with them in the way they would do when they were alive. A collection of photographs of the dead and some of their items is on a well-laid table covered with oilcloth. The offerings spread across the lower portion of the altar include traditional Mexican cuisines and other foods loved by the departed members.    

In Mexican culture, Marigolds symbolize life and death. Used in plenty for decorations and paying homage, the Mexicans believe that the flowers create the pathways that guide the spirits to the venue for enjoying their favorite foods.  

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