The celebration of the death all around Mexico takes place the first 2 days of November, being a cultural manifestation assumed by pretty much all the Mexican citizens, including a 97.2% of the total indigenous population of the country.
The Day of the Dead Festival is one of the multiple effects of the meeting of two worlds, Catholic and Pre-Hispanic. These celebrations not only share an ancient ceremonial practice where Catholic and pre-Columbian traditions coexist, but also a diversity of manifestations based on the ethnic and cultural plurality putting together a tradition of great importance. Death does not represent an absence; it represents a presence; death is a symbol of life materializing on the altar offered. In this sense, it is a celebration that carries great popular significance since it includes various meanings, from ethereal to material.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead prevails in the idiosyncrasy and collective indigenous and urban imagination, it represents a privileged moment of meeting with the loved ones who died. Death takes part in the creation of traditions and identities, it is a celebration of family and union when the arrival of loved ones is expected, it represents the opportunity for coexistence and rejoicing. The celebration is held on November 1 and 2, according to the Catholic calendar, November 1 corresponds to All Saints, (children) and November 2 to the Faithful Departed (adults).
Mexico has been identified as a country where death is a matter of laughter and celebration of the deceased and the faithful departed, it allows us to have an identity, it is a banner to recognize ourselves from among others. Death is usually represented by a skull or skeleton, showing an everlasting smile. “La Catrina” laughs at life and observes us inquisitively” Death is present in our culture and a lot of our sayings refer to it:
“Women together, not even when dead”
“Of good intentions, graveyards are full”
“You are scared of the deceased but you embrace the shroud”
“If they have to kill me tomorrow, let them kill me now at once”
To understand why the Day of the Dead is a party and a celebration, it is important to understand it is the day that where deceased are allowed to enjoy, celebrate and reaffirm the ties of identity in a community with the living ones. The one who comes is “the one who has gotten ahead of us, the one we will see soon” They come with a message: there is “an afterlife”, and the rites have worked. This festival is not about mourning, it does not hurt, the family member, friend, acquaintance or ancestor cannot be received with tears in their eyes; It’s party time and we can do it. Usually an offering is placed in each of the homes where they are expected. It is the moment to have a conversation with that loved one who went to the afterlife, it is the special time to tell them that we love and miss them, but that we are happy to know that they are always with us on that day. In the offering all that food that our loved one liked is prepared and place for them to enjoy. Offering is being close to our dead to dialogue with their memory, with their life, it represents the reunion with a ritual that summons memory, it is a reflection of the syncretism of the old and the new world, it is a cultural mixture.
Besides the food enjoyed by our deceased, the offering must have several essential elements such as:
- • Water. The source of life is offered to souls to quench their thirst after their long journey and to strengthen their return.
- • The salt. The element of purification, serves so that the body is not corrupted in its round trip for the following year.
- • Candles. The flame they produce means “light”, faith, hope. It is a guide, with its flickering flame so that the souls can reach their old places and illuminate the return to their home.
- • Copal and incense. The copal is the element that sublimates prayer or praise. Fragrance of reverence, it is used to cleanse the place of evil spirits so the soul can enter your home without any danger.
- • Flowers. They are a symbol of the festivity for their colors and aromatic stelae, they adorn and aromatize the place during the stay of the soul, which will leave happy when leaving, the wallflower and the cloud cannot be absent because their color signifies purity and tenderness, and they accompany the souls of the children.
- • Bread. The brotherly offering is bread.
- • The Table Cloth. Among the many uses of the mat is that of a bed, table or shroud, it serves for the souls to rest, as well as a tablecloth to place the food of the offering.
- • The photograph. It is to imply that the loved one can be seen, but no longer exists.
- • The sugar skulls. They are dedicated to the Holy Trinity and Eternal Father.
Paper Cut Mats. This 100% Mexican ornament gives color to the altar of the dead, although in certain indigenous communities it is replaced by embroidered tablecloths or foliage.
The history and origin of the Day of the Dead is quite extensive, this Mexican tradition full of color, aromas, flavors, emotions and festivity, is cataloged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as it gives identity to various peoples of Mexico. This celebration is alive, it is more than a tradition and helps us remember our loved ones with color, celebration, aromas, joy and flavor.
Without life there is no death. You must to live from death to learn to live and die from life to learn to die. This Blog is in memory of my dear brother who “is in the afterlife”. I say goodbye to you with a “calaverita”, a short and popular poem written to our deceased and is part of the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Death:
When the Catrina approached him inviting him a tangerine,
but the very naughty blew COVID on him,
when he turned around, the flirty one put him down… “