Día de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead – on Nov. 1 and 2 is a celebration of both the living and the dead. Known as all saint’s day, a minor catholic holiday that shows the Aztec and Spanish influence of the country.
The day is filled with drinking, eating, parties and activities that were enjoyed by those no longer with us.
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recognized the importance of this holiday by naming it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.
On the Day of the Dead, those who passed away return to their families. They become part of the community again and get to celebrate along with us.
Because death is not seen as the end of everything in Mexico, this day is highly awaited during the year, and people go all out to welcome their loved ones.
Every city in the country holds parades that welcome people with beautiful makeup and costumes. People tend to dress up as decorated skulls with both dresses and suits. It is also a tradition to wear shells or other noisemakers that keep people’s energy up.
Some people choose to decorate the deceased persons’ graves and spend the day with them. Cemeteries throughout Mexico explode with colour during this time of year.
Even unmarked graves are decorated to ensure those souls are also welcomed back with love.
Every family puts together an altar honouring the relatives who have passed away. The altars are filled with pictures of the person, food, and important objects that relate to them. The picture is the most important part. People want to make sure the person in the photo knows which altar is for them, and it assures the family that they are there with them.
The spirits who come back during this day are believed to feast from the altar, so having enough supplies is very important.
Some foods included are mole, tamales, chiles rellenos, sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, bread of the dead. This can only be found during October and November and is a sweetened soft bread shaped like a bun, often decorated with bone-shaped phalanges pieces and coated in sugar. Of course, the altar also has alcohol so everyone, including the dead, can have a fun night together.
To complete the final look of the altar, Cempasuchil flowers, colourful cut-up paper, candles, rice and petals are placed around the other items in intricate designs. Cempasuchil flowers are believed to represent a connection between the land of the living and the dead.
Whether it is with a big party or just a small altar, it is important to remember those who came before us. Celebrating their lives is a way to keep their memories alive. This Nov. 1 and 2, think of the people that are no longer with us and have a toast with them.