Dia de los Muertos

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Origins of Dia de Los Muertos:

Mexican Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday celebrated in the cities and countryside in central and southern Mexico during the chilly days of November 1st and 2nd. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s and All Saints Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.

They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families. On November 2nd, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.

In most Native villages, beautiful alters (ofrendas) are made in each home. They are decorated with candles, flowers (wild marigolds called cempasuchil and bright red cock’s combs) mounds of fruit, peanuts, plates of turkey mole, stacks of tortillas and big loaves of bread called pan de muerto. The weary spirits need lots of food, bottles of soda, hot cocoa, and water. Toys and candies are left for the angelitos and on November 2nd, cigarettes and shots of mezcal are offered to the adult spirits. Little folk art skeletons and sugar skulls, purchased at open-air markets, provide the final touches.

Day of the Dead is a very expensive holiday! Many spend over two month’s income to honor their dead relatives. They believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families.

On the afternoon of November 2nd, the festivities are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones. This tradition keeps the village close. Day of the Dead is becoming very popular in the U.S. – perhaps because we don’t have a way to celebrate and honor our dead, or maybe it’s because of our fascination with its mysticism.

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