Mexico, a country known for its traditions, turns out to have an unusual way to commemorate dead people. Every year, the people celebrate the Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in conjunction with Todos Santos (All Saint Day) from 28th October until 2nd November. Those commemorations aim to reminisce about the friends and family members who have passed. The people demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members through exciting parades and parties. Besides Mexico, many Latin American countries also celebrate the Day of the Dead with colorful calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons).
The rituals begin with preparing the altar to make sacrifices to family members who have perished in accidents. The altar, also known as an ofrenda, is the focal point of the celebration, which is put up in private houses or cemeteries where family members are buried. Those are the locations where the souls can be brought back into the realm of the living. The top tier of the altarcontains a photograph of the deceased as well as religious sculptures or symbols; the second tier provides the ofrenda or toys for the corpses of children and bottles of tequila, mezcal, or atole for deceased adults; and the third tier will include lighted candles and toiletries, like washbasin or towel, so that the souls of the corpses might refresh themselves when they arrive at the altar. Moreover, the altar will have the Calavera Catrina. As the artistic symbol of Day of the Dead, this Catrina has been decorated with candied skulls made of sugar as well as vivid orange marigolds, commonly known as flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead) which is one of the classic emblems woven into Day of the Dead celebrations throughout Mexico.
To decrease the exhaustion when traveling from the spirit world to the realm of the living, Mexicans arrange the favorite dish of their deceased loved ones on the altar in order to nourish their souls during the trip. The food for the deceased is called pan de muerto or Bread of the dead. It is a semi-sweet sugar-dusted egg bread flavored with natural citrus fruit extract. Decorated with a circle of bones, Pan de muerto means the circle of life, and skulls from dough mean sorrow. The deceased are also served various drinks, such as pulque, a sweet fermented beverage; atole, a thin heated porridge from maize flour; and hot chocolate. Later, the foods and drinks are distributed to family and friends, but they are supposed to be tasteless because the souls have absorbed the aroma and energy from the food and drink.
The unique thing about the Day of the Dead is the costumes people wear. People of all ages must dress with skeletons, paint upon themselves a skull-like face, and mimic the Calavera Catrina in fancy suits or gowns. Rather than being scary, they make the celebration look fun and alive. They also use items or other noise-making tools to increase excitement in order to wake the dead and keep them close during the fun.
Nowadays, Día de Los Muertos has become more popular in other countries. It has influenced the variation of ceremonies, offerings, and customs depending on region and town. If we want to witness this tradition, Oaxaca or Pátzcuaro are the best places for foreign visitors in Mexico. Besides those places, we can see the commemoration across Mexican communities. They have different styles and costumes based on their region’s predominant pre-Hispanic culture. Visitors can also visit the cemeteries, ofrendas, and local homes to have a cultural experience.
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Mexperience. (2020, November 1). Celebrating Life on Day of the Dead in Mexico | Mexperience. Mexperience | Experience More of Mexico. Retrieved from https://www.mexperience.com/day-of-the-dead-in-mexico/
Ward, L. (2021, May 3). Top 10 things to know about the Day of the Dead. Travel. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/top-ten-day-of-dead-mexico