Practically since the beginning of human history, November 2nd has been a celebrated day known by many Mexican families as the Day of the Dead (or “el Día de los Muertos”). Día de los Muertos used to be celebrated in the Summer (1). Moreover, it is stated by Maria Anderson that the presence of the Spanish caused this holiday to be combined “with two Spanish holidays”. These holidays include All Saints Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd (3). Children are usually honored on the 1st, while adults are honored on the 2nd (3). Nowadays, November 2nd is the annual day, with festivities and altars taking place days before. The Mexican-Spanish culture is not the only one who holds traditional days like Día de los Muertos. National Today has listed Cambodia, China, Nepal, and North and South Korea as a few countries that have their own day out of the year to honor the lives of the deceased (4). This year, so many people—young and elderly—have been lost to Coronavirus, so it feels right to honor their lives by remembering how they impacted families, friends, and the community; By keeping their spirit alive, people build shrines to commemorate their phases from birth to the time their loved ones were taken all too soon.
Cities all across Mexico and some parts of Central, South, and North America normally: hold parades, traditional dances, and memorials, have participants wear sugar skull face paint or makeup, and even use the time simply to visit a loved one’s last resting place in honor of el Día de los Muertos. The festivities entail beautifully choreographed dances, colorful decorations—marigolds and butterflies are a big part of this decorating process—and great food, which one must offer to their departed, along with special objects. There are reasons why offerings (also known as ofrendas) are made to the deceased, and why traditional objects are seen as significant parts of the holiday. Everyone who partakes in this holiday takes these traditions very seriously.
According to Office Holidays, a certain category of the marigold flower is “supposed to guide the spirits home” to the living for the time they have during Día de los Muertos (1). The ofrenda includes water, earth, fire, and wind—these four elements symbolize the balance of life and death. Water is seen in the drinks offered to the deceased. Earth is represented by food, more specifically the pan de muerto (1). Fire is the candle that is ignited, and wind is represented by “traditional paper banners” called papel picado, as said by Anderson (3). Other common symbols: anything that is shaped or styled as a skull, a woman named “La Catrina” (2), and monarch butterflies—said to be a sign of the spirits of those who are deceased (3).
To the Mexican-Spanish culture: it is the loss of life that has most impacted you this year, but never forget that your loved ones are never forgotten. Use this time to reflect and commemorate the family members and friends that took a piece of your heart with them before they left this world way too soon.
- Office Holidays, (2020). Day of the Dead in Mexico in 2020. https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/mexico/day-of-the-dead
- Ziemba, C. (2020, October 26). You Can Still Celebrate Día De Los Muertos During The Pandemic. https://laist.com/2020/10/26/where_to_celebrate_dia_de_los_muertos_events_during_pandemic_2020.php
- Anderson, M. (2016, October 30). 5 Facts About Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). https://www.si.edu/blog/5-facts-about-dia-de-los-muertos-day-dead
- National Today. (Updated 2020). DAY OF THE DEAD. https://nationaltoday.com/day-of-the-dead/