The Mexicans celebrate The Day Of The Dead annually in remembrance of the deceased. Known as Día de Muertos in Spanish, it takes place 2 days after Halloween, 2nd of November where they recite prayers and construct altars in honour of the dead. Think you know a few things about The Day Of The Dead? Here are a few more facts to add on to your pool of knowledge!
1) Let’s Hit The Graves!
People used to bury their relatives close to their homes during ancient times. Now that graveyards act as the final resting place for the dead, the place has become the ultimate celebrating destination. They normally clean the graves of their loved ones and leave the dead’s favourite dishes as a form of offering. Sometimes, it is customary to stay the night in the cemetery where they will have picnic suppers, playing music and share humorous memories of the dearly departed. Meanwhile, they will also lay flower petals in paths from the cemetery to their homes which will allow the spirits to find their way.
2) Home Sweet Home, Dear Departed.
Unlike Halloween, this celebration emphasizes on why we shouldn’t be afraid of the spirits, but instead welcome them home. The Aztecs developed this tradition 3,000 years ago as they believed that one shouldn’t grieve over the loss of their beloved. They will build an altar inside the house. Then, the family members will fill the altars with the deceased’s photos, favorite dishes, and personal possessions. To toast the arrival of the spirits, they will offer alcoholic beverages, often tequila. Candles are also essential as they represent lights that guide them back to the living world.
3) Celebrations Over Mourning
In spite of popular beliefs, Día de Muertos exists for the people to celebrate life instead of mourning death. The visiting spirits will feel insulted if they find everyone mourning. This explains why the family members share only joyful memories of the deceased and not feel sorry for them. Not only that, anyone who dresses up as skeletal figures also look like they’re partying because they understand the concept of this big day. The Mexicans take this lightness seriously and it is a far cry from how Westerners view death.
4) Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Skulls
Expect skeletons and skulls literally everywhere as how they’re metaphorically associated to death. But one unexpected thing about the skeletal decorations may leave you surprised. You can consume some of the skulls because they’re sugars. People usually decorate the deceased’s resting place with sugar skulls. The artists often add icings, feathers, and colored beads to the skulls which enhance the brightness of the skulls and make them appear cheerful. Additionally, sugar skull crafting is a good opportunity to involve the children to be a part of this huge day.
5) It’s Bigger Than Christmas
It’s the biggest holiday in Mexico that involves big events such as parades, gatherings, and performing. The Mariachi, which refers to a band of musicians, always perform on the day. There are more intimate celebrations that take place at home and because of that, it can be greatly expensive. Some families spend about two months’ wages just for the lavish decorations alone. It also has a history and origins that traces back to the Mayans’ time, which was 3,000 years ago.
6) To Do Or Not To Do?
The celebration will no doubt be time and energy consuming. Thus, it is understandable if some people tend to skip the hard work but it may invite some repercussions. Traditionally, if the dead return home to find an unsatisfactory altar for them, they may get revenge. Same goes to the family members that ignore the celebration. The revenge can manifest in a number of ways, including severe sickness or even death.
7) The Day Of The Dead Goes Global
The skeletons don’t just stay in Mexico alone. Other countries such as USA, Brazil,and Philippines also participate in this huge, joyful celebration. In Arizona, for instance, they encourage the locals to join the parade in painted faces in honour of the dead. At the same time, they fill the giant paper urns with prayers which they subsequently burn ceremonially. In fact, the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has recognized this celebration as an intangible “Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
8) Practices Vary
Not every place celebrates the day similarly. Different parts in Mexico and Latin America differ in celebration methods. People in southeastern Mexico remove their ancestors’ bones for cleaning purposes. They usually wash or dust them prior to placing the bones into the tomb again.
9) Finding Fame In Hollywood
Día de Muertos doesn’t just appear in the local news or worldwide documentaries. It has even made prominent features in the Hollywood industry! The celebration makes an appearance in 2003’s Once Upon A Time In Mexico which stars Johnny Depp and Antonio Banderas. In 2015, the opening scene of Daniel Craig’s James Bond movie, Spectre also features the big day in the opening scene. In fact, it has also inspired the concept of the recent animated movie, Coco.
The Day Of The Dead has tons of unique and distinctive facts that makes it different than any other celebrations. Would you participate in this huge day if it was celebrated here? Does the prospect of painting your face like everyone else excites you? Let us know it the comments below!