de los Muertos / Day of the Dead
three thousand year old ritual, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is
celebrated in Mexico and some portions of the lower United States. The
holiday is also celebrated in Brazil and the Philippines. It has its roots
in Aztec and Mesoamerican tradition.
Spaniards believed that death was the end of life, but the natives
believed that death was the end of the dream that was life and so in death
we become fully awake. The
skull held all because in our heads we hold our dreams, our wisdom and our
faith. The Spaniards tried to eliminate the ritual / holiday and
considered it very pagan and sacrilegious. To “Christianize” the
holiday, the Spaniards moved it to coincide with All Saints and Souls Day
(1st and 2nd of Nov.)
like the belief that the dead walk at Halloween, the faithful of Dia de
los Muertos also believe it is a time when the living and the dead have
the opportunity to touch, to be together.
Home altars are set with skulls, dioramas are made and pictures
colored. Skeletons adorn home
altars and people visit cemeteries with bottles of good Tequila for the
adult dead and toys for the young dead. The graves are decorated with
flowers and foods and little wax skulls.
Often an item that was once meaningful to the deceased is added to
towns and villages celebrate the holiday in different ways.
Some exchange small candles inscribed with the name of the dead.
Others play dancing games and other types of festival-like
activities around the graves of the dead loved one.
Still others gather foodstuffs and drink for those coming to visit
from the other side. The
skulls are often of spun sugar and there are poems written called in
English “skulls” parodying the tombstone of the dead.
idea of a festival to honor the dead is not restricted to Mexico.
There are Dia de los Muertos type celebrations all over the world.
Halloween is very close in sentiment.
Those who observe Samhain as a pagan holiday often set an extra
place at the table and decorate altars for the dead.
by their nature, tend to “look back”… to remember.
Honoring our ancestors, observing respect for dead loved ones; this
is all part of the human experience of time and the passing of it.
The celebration of Dia de los Muertos expresses the bittersweet
emotion of mourning combined with a celebration of life beyond death.
Not for reproduction - Reprinted with permission.