Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans • illuminaija
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Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

   
   

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

The Day of the Dead also known as Día de Muertos or Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico and elsewhere associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day and is held on November 1 and 2. 

The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. 

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning. 

Mexican academics are divided on whether the festivity has indigenous pre-hispanic roots or whether it is a 20th-century rebranded version of a Spanish tradition developed by the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas to encourage Mexican nationalism through an “Aztec” identity.

The festivity has become a national symbol and as such is taught in the nation’s school system, typically asserting a native origin.

In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Día de los Muertos is not only a time for families to gather to commemorate the lives of their dead, but also to welcome their spirits back to earth. 

   
   

To this end, people create altars in honor of the dearly departed decorated ornately with fresh flowers. Prince among them is the marigold known as the flor de muerto (‘flower of death’) because many believe it attracts the souls of those gone before.

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Ofrendas

Altars are festooned with ofrendas, gifts chosen with meticulous attention to the tastes of the departed. Locals invest as much as possible to tempt the spirits to earth because the dead are believed to be the gatekeepers of prosperity for their surviving family members. 

Pan de Muerte, (‘bread of the dead’) is scented with aniseed and topped with sugar, candied pumpkin, artisan chocolate, fruit, and even Mezcal, Mexico’s native drink.

Calaveras 

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

Calaveras, or skulls, were believed by the Aztecs to represent the life cycle, and are still part of the celebration, from candied skulls, decorated with brightly colored sugar crystals to vibrant ceramic skulls lined up in rows at the local mercado. Likewise, homage is paid by people of all ages who paint their faces in variations on the skeletal theme.

Santa Muerte

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

Santa Muerte (Our lady of the holy death) is the Mexican folk saint that officially personifies the celebration, worshipped not during her time on earth but for giving mortals safe passage to the miraculous afterlife in death. 

However, it is Calavera Catrina that has become the latter day poster girl for Día de los Muertos. Born of a satirical illustration created before the revolution to mock Mexicans aspiring to emulate the European elite, her poignancy became even more compelling in times of political and social independence.

On the day, mourners make their respectful procession to the graveyard surrounding the San Andres Apostol, a former monastery, where their family-owned plots are loaded with relatives spanning generations. 

Above ground it’s a similar story, with visitors from elderly relations rolled in wheel chairs to toddlers wrapped in swaddling cloth. Tombs are decorated in the same way as the altars, scattered with marigolds, ofrendas and candied sweets.

After nightfall, families gather graveside and pay tribute to the spirits of the deceased with an all-night vigil. Shadows dance on the granite crosses cast by twinkling candlelight. 

Incense burns a thick dense fog as cleansing rituals are performed to remove spiritual impurities. 

Patriarchs read a slow, morose roll call of the departed from the head of the grave. Glass-eyed mortals lost in a reverie of remembrance pray silently. It is incredibly moving to glimpse this very public grief, especially since this emotion is oft kept for privacy.

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

   
   

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

Día de Muertos | Festival Of The Dead Celebrated Every Year By Mexicans

There has been Catholic resistance to the Día de los Muertos, particularly since the faith doesn’t acknowledge Santa Muerte. Many see the festival as the dilution of deep-rooted Catholic traditions with pagan practices. 

   
   

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