Customs vary throughout Mexico, but most celebrations include: Decorations and family gatherings at el cementerio. Comidas especiales (special foods) Ofrendas (offerings) on un altar. Religious rites and prayers Often there are fireworks!
In many regions, el primero de noviembre is dedicated to the remembrance of los angelitos (deceased infants and children, who return first). Adults are honored el dos de noviembre, el Día de los Muertos.
In mid-October, markets begin displaying items needed for Día de los Muertos including: Calacas (skeleton toys, figurines, and sweets) Disfraces (costumes) y máscaras (masks) Papel Picado (cut paper decorations) Velas (candles) Flores (flowers) cempazúchiles (marigolds) Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) Calaveras de azúcar (Sugar skulls) Altares (altars in the home) Comidas (foods) y bebidas (drinks) especiales Items for el cementerio
Calacas Calacas (skeletons) are often shown in everyday activities which depict a dead person’s profession or interests. The calacas are often placed on el altar. This shows el muerto (the dead person) that he has not been forgotten.
Los disfraces (the costumes) and máscaras (masks) are worn to disguise people’s faces during the Day of the Dead processional to the cemetery. Calacas (skulls) are people who are dressed up with masks. They act in plays and celebrate death, instead of fearing it.
Cempasúchil (the marigold flower)- This is the symbolic flower of the dead. The cempasúchil is yellow, the color of la muerte (death). The aroma is said to lead los espíritus (the spirits) de los muertos (the dead) to their altar. Las flores (the flowers) are used to decorate los altares, and the petals are sometimes strewn to create a pathway from the cemetery to the home.
Floral wreaths and crosses made of cempazúchiles (marigolds)
Un altár en la casa (a home altar)- A family altar is set up in each home. The altar consists of special retratos (portraits, photos) and comidas (foods) for los difuntos (the deceased). Families make many ofrendas (offerings) to honor and memorialize the dead. The most common ofrenda is food.
*El altar has decorations: papel picado, velas (candles), flores (flowers), retratos (photographs of the departed), calaveras de azúcar (candy skulls with the name of the deceased)
*Los altares have comidas (foods) and bebidas (drinks): bottles of beer or tequila, cups of atole (a sweet drink made of milk, sugar, and corn starch) or café (coffee), refrescos (soda pop--many families will sacrifice to purchase a favorite brand!) and agua fresca (fresh water), as well as platters of arroz (rice), frijoles (beans), pollo (chicken) or carne (meat) in mole sauce, candied pumpkin or sweet potatoes, frutas (fruits) and pan (bread).
Los espíritus (spirits) return home…there they find many “goodies” they enjoyed while living. A wash basin and clean towel are placed on the altar for the espíritu to “freshen up” after a long journey Favorite comidas (foods) and bebidas (drinks) Favorite cigarettes or cigars Toys and candy for spirits of los angelitos (deceased children).
El altar (the altar)… An area of the home is cleared of furnishings Floors and walls are washed A table is covered with clean sheets, a blanket, or tablecloth Incense is usually burned Many velas (candles) are lit
Family members clean tumbas (tombs) and gravestones and pull weeds Tombs are painted and repaired if needed Graves are decorated with flower crosses, wreaths, or floral arrangements
Este chico acaba de volver (has just returned) del mercado con flores para el cementerio.
El cementerio (the cemetery)- Thousands of velas (candles) are lit to help guide each soul back. Decorating la tumba (grave) with artifacts and food is a family affair. A calming feeling is felt as loved ones gather to remember the souls of the departed. Vigils are held throughout the night in memory, sometimes with songs.
Cementerio en el campo (cemetery in the country)- You can see la flor de cempasúchil (marigold flower). El día de los angelitos is when children gather on the morning of el primero de noviembre to honor the memory of other children who have passed away.
En el cementerio Familiares (family members) gather at el cementerio. They bring picnics and mariachi bands may play favorite songs. Local restaurantes set up stands to sell comida (food). Muchas veces (many times) there is an outdoor church service.
Customs Around the World In the USA, most people avoid talking about la muerte (death). Many cultures around the world have rituals for remembering los difuntos (the deceased). Some cultures have similar rituals involving the lighting of lamps or candles and laying out food and drinks Even ancient Egyptians had similar traditions or remembering loved ones
Images and information taken from www.mexconnect.com and www.azcentral.comwww.mexconnect.comwww.azcentral.com