Dia de los Muertos, a Celebration of the Departed
Each month brings new holidays to celebrate. Even if they are not happening where you live, people all over the world are gathering for celebrations and highlighting important dates. Coming into November, Thanksgiving is not the only thing that is happening. Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, kicks off the month on November 1 and continues through November 2.
Dia de los Muertos became known in central Mexico during the 16th century but was practiced by the Aztecs long before that. It is celebrated with bright colors and smiling calavera's (skulls) to mock death. Assuming that the dead would not want members of their family to be sad, or constantly mourning them, Dia de los Muertos is a big celebration of the loved one's life. It is a day meant to celebrate that they were once here with their loved ones.
During this holiday, families of the deceased make offerings or altars, known as ofrendas. These consist of the loved one's favorite foods, drinks and are decorated with photographs of the departed. Marigolds are also placed all along these altars. They are called flor de murto, flower of the dead, because of their sweet smell that is said to attract the souls from the land of the dead to the altars. They symbolize the beauty of life and how fragile it can be. Candles are also present on the altars to provide light as guidance for the spirits.
Dia de los Muertos can be broken up into three parts: Dia de los Angelitos, Dia de los Difunitos and Dia de Los Muertos.
Dia de los Angelitos, day of the little angels, begins November 1 at midnight. The deceased children are believed to be reunited with their families for 24 hours at the altars of their favorite things such as toys, candies and snacks. The names of the children are also written on sugar skulls which are placed at their graves.
Dia de los Difunitos begins November 2 at midnight. This part of the day is to honor the lives of the adults that have passed. Their altars take on more of an adult theme, and families celebrate by reminiscing and dancing to bands playing all around town.
Dia de los Muertos starts on November 2 at noon. This is where the spirits of all the dead are celebrated. It becomes a public celebration with parades and cemetery visits. Skeleton painted faces are seen all throughout the day, as well as bright colored clothing. On this day, the families will go to the graves of their loved ones to clean them up, restore the color of them and decorate with marigolds and sugar skulls with their names.
Many people think that Dia de los Muertos is just the “Mexican version of Halloween,” but that is not true. The whole idea of this holiday is remembrance; nobody is truly gone until they are forgotten. It is about celebrating life and welcoming death as a part of something that we will all face.