Monday, September 30, 2019

III- Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is a traditional celebration in Mexico as well as Central and South America.  The purpose is to remember family and friends who have died and to assist them on their spiritual journey. It is celebrated October 31, November 1, and November 2. These days coincide with the celebration of Allhallowtide - All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31, All Saints Day on November 1, and All Souls Day on November 2.

Families set up alters (Ofrendas) to their loved ones, where they offer food and gifts. One such offering is a ‘Calavera’, an edible or  decorative skull. Some are cakes, others are made from clay.

Each of the 3 days, represents a separate celebration. October 31 is in celebration and memory of angelitos (spirits of dead children), when children build the Ofrendas. On November 1, it is believed the spirits of the adults return. Families visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones on November 2. Candy and toys are placed on the graves of the children and gifts for the deceased adults include Tequila, trinkets, and their loved one's favorite candy.

Many of the offerings and decorations feature Marigolds (the flower of the dead). In addition to the sugar skulls, there are paper skeletons, tissue paper decorations, incense, fruits, nuts, and candy. The celebrations involve food and drink, both for those alive and those departed. Even though crosses and traditional Christian symbols are often used, the Catholic church sees this as a pagan celebration. However, since this celebration dates back 2500 to 3000 years, it out dates Christianity.

A new addition to the celebrations are parades where family members dress in costumes of skeletons and other symbols of the dead and walk through the streets of their towns and cities. 

One common thread of all these celebrations that date back to before the Middle Ages, is the celebration of death. It gives mortals the chance to both celebrate and mourn their departed loved ones. It provides a link between the living and the dead. Researchers believe that those who mourn publically (some hysterically) handle the passing of their loved ones better than those who are quiet and hold their feelings in.

An excellent example of this is the African American culture in the south. If you have ever attended one of their funerals or Homecomings as they call them, then you should understand. I blogged several years ago on this: Don't Call the Roll, I'm Coming Home.

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