Many cultural rituals and “celebrations” are misunderstood and shunned by those who do not participate. I have to admit that I fell into that category. Being in Mexico for four months, and being exposed to many strange figures around town, I became curious and needed to know the story and origin of a three day happening ( Oct 31, Nov 1, 2) called The Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos.
A little history is needed here.
Day of the Dead, called Día de Muertos in Spanish, is a Mexican holiday that falls on November 1 and 2 of each year. On the Day of the Dead, the boundaries between life and death begin to blur. Men, women and children of all ages honor and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away, participating joyously in a festival that has roots nearly 4000 years old. The holiday has spread in recent years from Mexico to America and beyond. It is now celebrated by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and countless others, spawning a colorful and distinctive artistic tradition that continues to inspire.
“Part of our tradition in Mexico is not to be scared of death and to smile at it. It is a celebration of our ancestors as they were when they were on the earth, alive. It was never a sad thing or a scary thing.” Gennaro Garcia.
I have to wonder if viewing death as described by Gennaro, would give you a different take on life. Would you be a happier person? I pose that question based on what I have observed of the people here in Puerto Vallarta. They strike me as being a content and happy lot; many smiles and much laughter. This is not what I see at home. Just musing.
Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, the Day of the Dead:
||On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.
|— Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature
The Catholic World Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Catholic world… Italy, Spain, South America and the Philippines all celebrate All Souls and All Saints Day on November 1st and 2nd. Special Masses and perhaps cleaning of the cemetery tombs are part of the traditional activities… it’s only in Central and Southern Mexico where the colorful parties take place in the cemeteries and elaborate ofrenda altars are built in the homes to honor specific family members who have passed on. – See more at: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html#sthash.PT6EQPdT.dpuf
Even in death, people around the world are celebrating life. Unfortunately I will not be down here when this happens, but I hope that in the two months I have left here that I will allow their zest for living to be a part of who I am. I want to take that home with me.
Art installations are a big part of the festivities in Mexico City.
Leanna Garfield – businessinsider.com