Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican festival which is held every year which commemorates those who have passed on from this life. This is a fascinating and colorful festival which certainly has one foot in the macabre and another in celebration. There are some common myths and some things which people don’t know about this festival, which is what we are going to take a look into today. Let’s scratch beneath the surface of this incredible national festival.
Because of the fact that Day of the Dead takes place around Halloween, there is a misconception that this is the Mexican version of Halloween, this isn’t the case. There are similarities with regards to dressing up and discussing the dead, but the two are very different in reality. Halloween has its origins in Celtic folklore whereas this festival is from ancient religions in Mesoamerica.
The Passage of the Spirits
Each year alters are built with bright colors, offerings, skulls, candles and food items, these are built to help the dead reach their spiritual destination. This becomes both a celebration of life, and the offering of assistance to reach the next level of the afterlife.
In preparation for the Day of the Dead, family members will visit their loved one’s graves and prepare the ground, and clean the area. There will be candles and marigolds placed around the grave too, and some well bring offerings of food and items which were special to the deceased during their lives.
Importance of Marigolds
The Mexican Marigold, or the Flor de Cempasuchil, is used heavily in the offerings which are made for Day of the Dead. This is for multiple reasons but principally it is because the smell of the flower is said to attract spirits. Owing to the form and shape of the flower, there is also an association with the sun, and thus rebirth.
Pan de Muerto
The pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is something which you will see in every bakery throughout the country at this time of year. This sweet bread is round in shape and built up to resemble a pile of bones. The bread is coated in sugar and usually enjoyed with a chocolate drink.
Throughout Mexico you will find some varying ways in which this event is celebrated. For example in Mixquic, just outside Mexico City, they take this festival very seriously and they will decorate the entire town. In Michoacan, specifically in a place called Patzcuaro, people will go to the cemetery on candle lit boats, which makes for quite the striking display.
This is a truly fascinating festival which is help in Mexico each year, on the first days of November. check out this infographic from our partners to discover more festivals around the world.