After the celebration of Halloween on October 31st, the Day of the Dead comes every year. Observed on the 1st and 2nd of November every year, the tradition was started in Mexico, where families lit up the candles, place the pictures of their lost ones on the altar, and guided the dead souls back to Earth. This day means welcoming the departed ones back on Earth for two days when Heaven opens its doors.
The families and people entice the departed souls on the first two days of November by cooking meals and drinks. The families believe the souls are with them in the house for a brief reunion. Even the toys are kept at the altar for children to tempt them to visit—it's believed to be a celebratory day. Rather than a sad day, it is marked as a happy occasion where every soul who left the Earth meets their family members again.
To welcome the souls, the families often dance and sing to show them that they are still a part of their happiness and celebrations. These families believe that the loss was mourned when their loved ones passed away, but now is their chance to remember them, feel their presence around and have a good time with the souls of the departed.
This festival is a national holiday in Mexico. While the preparations for this day start on October 28th, many people also celebrate it towards the end of the first week of November. During the prehispanic time, this tradition came from the indigenous communities. Aztecs believed that death was just a transition from Earth to Heaven and that souls could come back to Earth to visit their loved ones. But after the sixteenth century, the tradition meddled with the catholic rules and coincided with All Souls Day.
The tradition, which is often celebrated on November 1st, is for the kids who passed away. Lights are lit up in the graveyards along with the candies and toys to allure children to visit the families. On November 1st, the day is celebrated for the lives of young kids, also known as "angelitos," which means little angels. On November 2nd, All Souls day is observed, which means that the adults who passed away are remembered, their life is cherished, and they welcome the souls in the house. Families use marigolds as a sign of leading the souls from graveyards to their homes.
Often Halloween is confused with the Day of the Dead, and the theme of death is similar in both; the two days differ in tone. While the night of Halloween represents a spooky and scary theme, the Day of the Dead represents celebrating death and life. While the colors of Halloween are startling and represent mischief, the colors of the Day of the Dead are bright and joyful. People dress up in skeleton costumes for the festival.
The people who hold parades on this day are colorful, and people create skulls, do creative makeup, wear funky clothes, and sing and dance on the streets to make their loved ones feel honored. In 2008, UNESCO also acknowledged this colorful event and stated that culture isn't always about monuments, but the traditions passed down by the generations.
A fact about this day is that you can eat the food of the dead. The Mexican tradition believes that the soul travels from Heaven to the Earth and is hungry for food. Therefore, the families put food on the altar for the dead ones. Apart from the favorite meals of the soul, other offerings also resonate with the tradition and event itself. The bread of the dead is a sweet bread made of anise seeds decorated with skulls and bones made from the dough. The bones are often arranged in a circle which symbolizes the process of life.
In the seventeenth century, Italian missionaries brought sugar skulls, also used for this festival. They are made of crystalline colors and come in all sizes. The colors on the sugar skulls are red, which symbolizes blood; purple symbolizes suffering; yellow is for nature and orange is for the sun. The sweet drink is atole, made from unrefined sugarcane, hot chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla. Other beverages, such as Pulque and Tequila infused with marigolds, also serve the event's nature.
The festival is also celebrated outside of Mexico, but the way of celebration might differ due to the prehispanic history in different regions. The festival is traditionally celebrated in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico due to All Souls Day. In Italy, on 2nd November, All Souls Day is celebrated by placing flowers at the family burial sites or the cemeteries. It is a tradition that teaches adults and children not to fear death.
While people celebrate the existence of other human beings, it is equally important to give a day to the dead ones who left the world. The fact that the people who passed away are with us in spirit is a great way to keep them in our memories. But to dedicate two days to them is a lovely tradition to put everything aside and do everything they love.
Cooking the meals they loved is a way to feel the presence of the people you wished you had in their life. Where there are days dedicated to every event and occasion, every festival, The Day of the Dead should be marked to relive the good memories and to cherish the lives of the deceased.
After the covid restrictions, Mexico was in a proper mood to celebrate the festival. The music was played, and the photographs of the deceased loved ones were kept on the altars to remember them. Even though the loved ones are not with us in physical form, this festival is still a great way to remember the good things, habits, and personalities of the deceased ones.
It is a beautiful and grand cultural celebration to sit down as a family and walk down the bittersweet memory lane along with the food the dead appreciates, flowers, and candles to guide the soul to the homes. Therefore, it is essential to observe this day as it brings us closer to understanding where we have come from and where we will return.
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1 month ago by saroshibrahim
My first understanding of this festival was after I watched COCO. You have done a simple yet well-informed research analysis here.
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