Day of the Dead Celebrations
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday that is celebrated in southern and central parts of Mexico. It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. While celebrated around the same time as Halloween (All Hallow's Eve), the holiday is not the same. For those that celebrate Dia de los Muertos, it is a time in which it is believed that the gates of heaven open on October 31 at midnight. During this time, spirits of deceased young ones are able to be reunited with their families for twenty four hours. Then, on November 2, the spirits of the adults are allowed to reunite and enjoy festivities that are prepared for them. The history of the Day of the Dead dates back hundreds of years; scholars believe it originated with an Aztec festival that honored the goddess Mictecacihuatl.
Normally, during Day of the Dead celebrations, beautiful altars are constructed in people's homes. These altars are decorated with buckets of flowers, candles, peanuts, stacks of tortillas, fruit, and special Day of the Dead bread called pan de muerto. Plates of turkey mole and other foods are also left. A selection of beverages including soda, water and hot cocoa is also left for the spirits. For the spirits of the children, candies and toys are left at the altar. For the adult spirits, cigarettes and alcohol, generally shots of a drink called mezcal, are offered. Beautiful, oftentimes handmade, sugar skulls are also added to the altar in addition to little folk art skeletons. These things add the final touch to the beautifully decorated altars.
Dia de los Muertos is often a very expensive holiday for indigenous, rural families, who often spend a couple of month's worth of income to celebrate the holiday and honor their deceased loved ones. They do this in the belief that making the spirits happy will provide them with good luck, protection, and wisdom for their families.
During the afternoon of November 2, the Day of the Dead festivities are moved to the local cemetery. While there, people clean their relatives tombs, listen to village music, reminisce about family and loved ones, and play cards. It is believed that these traditions help to keep rural, indigenous villages close.
Day of the Dead continues to grow in popularity in the United States. It is also celebrated in other countries throughout the Catholic world including the Phillippines, Spain, Italy, and South America. Many of these countries refer to the celebration not as Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, but as All Saint's Day, All Souls Day, or All Hallow's Eve. It is really only in Southern and Central Mexico that the intricate altars are instructed and the colorful celebrations and parties take place. In addition to those mentioned previously, many other countries around the world have celebrations similar to Day of the Dead to honor their deceased family members and friends. In Japan, The Bon Festival is a Buddhist holiday that honors the spirits of a person's ancestors. In Korea, Hangawi, or Chuseok, is a traditional holiday in which ancestors are enshrined and worshiped. In Nepal, Gai Jatra is celebrated to honor deceased loved ones and in parts of Africa, people will visits the graves of their ancestors to leave gifts and food. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, may be one of the most well known celebrations of the deceased but there are many different cultures around the world that honor the deceased in various ways.
To learn more about Dia de los Muertos, including history, traditions, celebration ideas, and more, take a look at the following websites.