“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.
Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them.”

~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull ~


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated by many in Mexico and by some Mexican Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 2nd in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1st) and All Souls' Day (November 2nd).

Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Because the Day of the Dead follows so closely behind Halloween, sometimes they're mistaken to be the same holiday, although the two actually have little in common. The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration where partying is common.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries to pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.


'Catrinas'

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the Goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.

In most regions of Mexico, November 1st honors children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2nd. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1st mainly as Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") but also as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and November 2nd as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead").

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Plans for the day are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the three-day period, families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas ("offerings"), which often include orange mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchitl (originally named cempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty flowers").

In some parts of the country (especially the cities, where in recent years there are displaced other customs), children in costumes roam the streets, knocking on people's doors for a calaverita, a small gift of candies or money; they also ask passersby for it. This custom is similar to that of Halloween's trick-or-treating and is relatively recent.

Some people believe that possessing Day of the Dead items can bring good luck. Many people get tattoos or have dolls of the dead to carry with them. They also clean their houses and prepare the favorite dishes of their deceased loved ones to place upon their altar or ofrenda.

There are traditions all over the world that celebrate the 'Day of the Dead' and whichever way you celebrate it, I hope that you are blessed with happy memories of those loved ones that have gone before you.

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4 comments:

Faerie Sage said...

Thank You so much for this beautiful commentary on the day of the dead, so many as you say mistake it for the same as Halloween, this is a beautiful way of showing how different the two really are
Blesse be

Incipient Wings said...

what gorgeous images, thank you.

Plumrose Lane said...

This is fascinating ~ thanks so much! For some reason I thought the day was celebrated in May, perhaps confusing it with Cinco de Mayo.
♥Sharon

Sara said...

I always wondered what the meaning behind this celebration was. Now I understand and it isnt scary to me anymore. THanks for a fab post. Hugs
Sara