The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2, and is one of the most popular holidays in Mexico and in various parts of the United States. It takes place on November 2, and dates from pre-Hispanic times. For ancient Mexican cultures (the Olmecs, the Mayas, the Aztecs, etc.) “death” was a major concern, according to which, the dearly departed set out for “Mictlan.” Theirs was a dangerous journey. The deceased had to ford a deep river, climb the highest mountains, and fight savage beasts.
There was no reward or punishment for most of the dead, except that some departed souls, depending on how they died, were reincarted as gods. Brave warriors were reincarnated as winged birds, whose duty was to accompany the sun at dawn or at dusk.
On the Day of the Dead, many families visit cemeteries, where they adorn grave sites, place flowers (the zempasuchil or maravillas) and light candles. It is a joyous occasion. Candles are lit. Fruit drinks, and atole are prepared. Traditional “Day of the Dead” breads with bones on top, are adorned with red sugar, to symbolize blood. Cookies, pumpkin-based candy, skulls of sugar, and fruit preserves abound. Skeletons and skulls are seen everywhere. Celebrations include music, the Dance of the Old Men and the White Fish dance.
by Professor Esthela Torres de Siegrist, ABD, UNAM
David Siegrist, ABD, USC
Image Credit: Flickr – Señor Codo