Every year at the end of October and the beginning of November an anci
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Every year at the end of October and the beginning of November an ancient tradition is still celebrated on the second of November. The occasion is "El dia de muerto" or as we would call it, The Day of the Dead. Mexicans more appropriately call it the cult of death because of the celebration's form and extent. This coincides with the Christian All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, November 1st and 2nd. People who have died in the past year are remembered, and their pictures are placed on family altars and special food and drink are offered for the souls of the dead.
The choice of November 2nd is traditionally attributed to St. Odilo, the fifth abbot of Cluny, the city of France famous for the Abby, because he wanted to follow the example of Cluny in offering special prayers and singing the office of the dead on the day following the feast of All Saints.
The people of all Latin American countries celebrate this day as a time to remember the departed in joyous celebration instead of somber sadness usually associated with death. Although the celebrations do include a mourning ritual called "El Duelo" which means the weeping, the atmosphere is one of happiness. The tradition is observed by both rural and urban areas, but there is a slight difference. The rural and poor classes have very elaborate altars and offerings while the urban middle to upper class might have a simple offering or mocking attitude toward the tradition. Some simple offering may include a flower arrangement of "cempazuchitl", the Nabfuafi language name for marigolds, and candles as well. Some elaborate offerings include: a pie made off corn with various fillings, plates of tamales, beverages which are usually the favorite of the deceased including chocolate, an assortment of flowers, candles, bowls of local fruits such as chayotes, limes, and avacados, and "pan de muerto" which are rounded loaves of bread. The bread is sometimes shaped like a human with a design of crossed bones. Marzipan skulls, bread shaped like a skull, can also be implemented in the offering. The graves are decorated with flower arrangements and the area is covered with Marigold petals. Candles and copal incense are burned too. The candle light with the fragrance of the incense are said to help the souls find their way back. People gather at the cemeteries and play music from homemade drums and flutes. Street vendors have become a part of the celebration as well by selling a variety of fruits and delicacies.
From mid-October through the first week of November, markets and shops all over Mexico are complete with special accouterments for the day of the Dead. There are all kinds of skeletons and other macabre toys; intricate tissue paper cut-outs called papel picado; elaborate wreaths and crosses decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and votive lights; and fresh seasonal flowers, particularly marigolds and cockscomb. There are also some edible goodies that include skulls, coffins and things like that made from sugar, chocolate or amaranth seeds and special baked goods like the breads use to decorate the altars. All of these goods are used for the ofrendas de muertos, in other words, offerings to the dead.
The original celebration can be traced to the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, ritually presided by the "Lady of the Dead", and dedicated to the children and the dead. The rituals during this month also featured a festivity dedicated to the major Aztec war deity, "Sinister Hummingbird". In the Aztec calender, this ritual fell at the end of the Gregorian month of July and the beginning of August, but in the post-conquest era it was moved by Spanish priests so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All Hollows Eve, in Spanish they call it "Dia de Todos Santos" in a vain effort to transform this from a "profane" to a Christian celebration.
Death was never a reason for sorrow between the ancient Mexican's. They didn't consider it as an end to everything but a step toward other levels in nature. The Aztecs had various perceptions of their world. Some as simplistic as a "flat disc" surrounded by water, to a toad floating in a water-lily filled sea. In this world contained various
View Full Essay
Halloween, Mexican culture, Latin American culture, Death customs, Sweet breads, Day of the Dead, Ofrenda, All Souls Day, Altar, Pan de muerto, All Saints Day
More Free Essays Like This